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Gizmorama - October 25, 2017

Good Morning,

The FDA has approved a robotic surgical-assist device. Is this technological breakthrough a cut about or a future problem?

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- FDA approves new robotically-assisted surgical device --*

The FDA announced recently it has cleared a new robotically-assisted surgical device, the Senhance System, for gynecological and colorectal procedures in adult patients.

RASD allows a surgeon to use computer and software technology to control and move surgical instruments through small incisions in the body. The FDA approved the Senhance System, which is said to offer improved imaging and better controls for doctors, for use in minimally invasive surgical procedures.

The Senhance System is intended to assist the control of laparoscopic instruments for visualization and manipulation of tissue including grasping, cutting, blunt and sharp dissection, ligation, approximation, electrocautery, suturing, mobilization and retraction in laparoscopic colorectal surgery and laparoscopic gynecological surgery.

"Surgeons are approaching the boundaries of minimally invasive care performed with handheld manual instruments and cameras, and are seeking new technologies that will allow us to advance beyond these boundaries," Dr. Steve Eubanks, a general surgeon and executive director of academic surgery at Florida Hospital, said in a press release. "The future will be driven by the appropriate use of robotics and information tools in the operating room. The Senhance platform grants laparoscopic surgeons robotic precision, control of our vision, and haptic feedback while minimizing procedural costs, and is a welcome revolution in our field."

The Senhance System allows surgeons to sit at a console unit or cockpit that gives a 3D high-definition view of the surgical field, allowing them to control three separate robotic arms remotely. Each arm is equipped with surgical instruments based on traditional laparoscopic instrument designs.

The system is unique in that it includes technological characteristics of force feedback to allow the surgeon to feel the stiffness of the tissue being grasped by the robotic arm, eye-tracking to help control movement of surgical instruments and laparoscopic-type controls similar to traditional surgical equipment.

The FDA approved the Senhance System after a clinical trial of 150 patients who underwent various gynecological operations using the system showed clinical outcomes comparable to more than 8,000 gynecological operations performed in real-world settings using other devices.

"Minimally invasive surgery helps reduce pain, scarring and recovery time after surgery," Dr. Binita Ashar, director of the Division of Surgical Devices in the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a press release. "RASD technology is a specialized innovation in minimally invasive surgery designed to enhance the surgeon's access and visualization within confined operative sites."

*-- Lunar lava tube could be used as a moon mission base --*

NASA and other agencies have long considered establishing an outpost on the lunar surface -- a moon base. Now, scientists at Purdue University may have found the perfect place for it.

In a new study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, scientists confirmed the presence of a large lava tube among the Marius Hills, a series of lunar lava domes.

The open lava tube could serve like a giant bunker, providing shelter from the harsh conditions on the moon's surface. In their study, scientists argue lava tubes offer ideal protection from extreme temperature swings, radiation and meteorite impacts.

Lava tubes form when the outer edges of a lava flow harden into crust and the remaining lava drains away, leaving an empty cylinder.

"It's important to know where and how big lunar lava tubes are if we're ever going to construct a lunar base," Junichi Haruyama, a senior researcher at JAXA, Japan's space agency, said in a news release. "But knowing these things is also important for basic science. We might get new types of rock samples, heat flow data and lunar quake observation data."

Scientists have known about the Marius Hills Skylight, the opening to the newly discovered lava tube. But until now, they weren't sure what the entrance led to.

When JAXA's SELENE spacecraft bounced radar off the area, the data revealed an echo-like signature suggesting the waves were bouncing back off the floor and ceiling of a tube-like structure. Gravity data from NASA's GRAIL mission also revealed an absence of mass beneath the surface surrounding the Marius Hills Skylight.

The combination of the two datasets helped scientists get a better idea of how deep and far the cavity stretched beneath the lunar surface.

"Our group at Purdue used the gravity data over that area to infer that the opening was part of a larger system," said Jay Melosh, a researcher on the GRAIL mission and a professor of planetary science at Purdue. "By using this complimentary technique of radar, they were able to figure out how deep and high the cavities are."

Earth hosts lava tubes, too, but they're not nearly as large as those found on the moon. Now, thanks to the latest research, scientists have a better idea of how expansive lunar lava tubes really are.

The new research could prove useful to NASA, as the Trump administration is pushing the space agency to focus on future missions to the moon. NASA is currently working with Russia's space agency, as well as other national space outfits, to design a lunar space station -- a base from which to explore the lunar surface and launch deep space missions to Mars and elsewhere.


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