Dr. Vivian Mushahwar and her team have developed an image-guided stereotactic setup for precise targeting of various regions in a patient’s spinal cord, coupled with the ability to provide real-time feedback during the surgical procedure. This system can be used by surgeons to perform procedures such as injectable delivery (e.g., stem cells, drugs) into the spinal cord, or insertion of microelectrodes into the spinal cord for intraspinal microstimulation (ISMS). These procedures benefit from real-time guidance, high precision (sub-millimeter), targeting accuracy, and stability between the device and the spinal cord.
Designed to be directly mounted onto the spine during surgery, the system provides six degrees of freedom with sufficient range of motion to allow precision targeting in multiple spinal levels at a time (>15 cm-range). Both benchtop and in-vivo experiments have shown that the targeting resolution of this system is at least three times higher than existing systems for intraspinal targeting. The higher targeting resolution reduces the number of required electrode penetrations for successful outcomes, thus minimizing potential associated damage. This system has been tested in animals including pigs and rhesus monkeys. Further testing in humans for use in ISMS is underway.