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Hong Kong Research Centre Plans Launch of Revolutionary Robotics System for Brain Surgery

Updated: Jan 8

The Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is set to introduce a groundbreaking robotics system for brain surgery.

AI-powered brain surgery
Credit: Shutterstock

Overcoming talent shortage and AI chip challenges, CAIR's MicroNeuro robot has successfully completed three cadaver trials, offering minimally invasive deep brain surgery.

A Hong Kong-based research centre, CAIR, operating under China's prestigious national research institute, CAS, is on the brink of revolutionising brain surgery through robotics. Despite hurdles such as a scarcity of skilled professionals and AI chips, CAIR's MicroNeuro robot has undergone three successful cadaver trials. In an interview with the Post, Liu Hongbin, the executive director of the centre, revealed that the robot can perform deep brain surgery in a minimally invasive manner.

Traditionally, brain surgery necessitates surgeons to employ rigid tools and create large openings on the patient's scalp, resulting in significant damage to healthy brain tissue. Acknowledging the high-risk nature of this procedure, Liu stated, "Brain surgery is a type of surgery that needs technology the most because it's a very dangerous procedure." With a vision to enhance safety and reduce invasiveness, surgeons are eager to utilise AI and technological advancements.

CAIR's robotic system offers an innovative solution by employing a small, flexible instrument alongside an AI-powered navigation system enhanced with augmented reality. This approach minimises brain tissue damage by at least 50 percent, as confirmed by trials conducted in collaboration with Hong Kong's Prince of Wales Hospital. The robot's efficacy has been demonstrated in performing endoscopic third ventriculostomy and pineal biopsy, minimally invasive brain surgeries used for treating central brain tumours.

While CAIR focuses on refining the robotic system to meet regulatory standards, they anticipate commencing clinical trials next year, pending approval from Hong Kong's Hospital Authority. Supported by funding from CAS and Hong Kong's InnoHK initiative, CAIR forms a part of the central government's strategic plan to transform the southern semi-autonomous city into a hub for innovation and technology.

Liu credits the centre's success to the abundance of talented young researchers produced by Hong Kong's universities. However, the shortage of experienced engineers well-versed in electronic design and professional software writing necessitates the relocation of mainland engineers to Hong Kong.

Furthermore, CAIR faces challenges related to AI computing power, as recent US export rules restrict access to advanced chips required for training AI models, including Nvidia's AI server. In response, CAIR is exploring a collaboration with Huawei Technologies to leverage their AI computing server, although it is relatively new compared to Nvidia's. Liu acknowledges potential challenges when competing with international players in the field but expresses confidence in China's ability to catch up over the long term.

  • Hong Kong-based CAIR, part of CAS, plans to launch a robotics system for brain surgery.

  • The MicroNeuro robot completed successful cadaver trials, offering minimally invasive surgery.

  • Traditional brain surgery damages healthy tissue, prompting the need for AI and tech innovation.

Source: SCMP

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