Breakthroughs include ultrasound that melts tumours, robot surgery and 3D tissue printing
A children's research hospital in
The institute has a challenging mission to make paediatric treatment more precise, less invasive and free from pain.
Preparation is under way for trials of the ultrasound-based technology, which is typically used for imaging and diagnosis.
"We are planning to conduct the first clinical trials in the world, in collaboration with the
"So imagine, you can actually melt the tumour away without having to make the incision."
The technology, called high-intensity focused ultrasound, has been used in adults, but this will be the first time it has been tried on children.
It will be especially useful for youngsters with bone tumours, which can cause great pain, said Dr
"It would truly be not only minimally invasive, you might almost say a non-invasive treatment right there," he said.
Another technology in the works is the use of magnetic-resonance (MR) compatible robots to find and test lesions, which could possibly replace CT scans.
"If you see a suspicious lesion in an MR image and you need a biopsy, right now it would be done under CT scanning or something that produces a lot of radiation," Dr Cleary said.
"The doctor would identify the area of interest on a CT scan, put in the needle a little bit, then he'll go back and get another CT scan and repeat. So what happens is you get multiple CT exposure."
MR robotic devices would reduce the discomfort and eliminate the exposure to dangerous radiation. The institute has received an NIH grant for the project, he said.
It is also using robotics to automate parts of surgery. "You can potentially programme a surgeon's techniques into those robots and have expert surgeons simply supervise them," Dr Kim said.
"What that really means is that these techniques can be available to anybody in the world and, at the same time, because it's standardised and done in a consistent way, will make the procedure safe."
Researchers are also looking at expanding the use of 3D printing. The hospital uses it to make 3D models of patients' hearts, which helps surgeons plan surgery.
Experts said the possibilities of using this technology were endless. Not only has it been used to develop paediatric surgical tools within the hospital, but research is under way with the
"If the child is small and the grows, at some point you have to take out that stent then put in another one, which is a painful process and requires a second operation," Dr Cleary said. "Whereas if you had a biologically compatible stent, you could put that in and that would be absorbed into the tissue wall and there would be no need for a second operation.
"It would grow naturally with the child. That's the promise of that technology."
It could even go so far as printing artificial organs for implanting.
"I certainly think it'll be within our lifetime," Dr Cleary said. "I don't think this is science fiction any more."
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