On May 6, students in the Computer Integrated Surgery II course demonstrated their final projects during a virtual showcase and competition. Eighteen teams presented their multidisciplinary research to Johns Hopkins faculty, mentors, staff, and peers.

The course is offered by Johns Hopkins Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics (LCSR). All the research projects have a connection to health care, said Russ Taylor, John C. Malone Professor of Computer Science and director of LCSR. Students worked on projects that required skills in computer science, surgeon economics, and mechanical engineering.

In addition to material covered in lectures and seminars, students in the course were expected to read and provide critical analysis and presentations of selected papers in recitation sessions. Their work culminated in a poster presentation and a chance to win Best Project Award and the coveted Sisyphus Award.

Below are a few projects that scored highly in the competition.

Force Sensing Surgery for Skull Base Procedures
During surgeries of the skull base, any tremor, jerk, or overshoot could have serious consequences on the patient outcome, including facial paralysis or loss of taste or smell. “The Galen Robot,” a hand-over-hand cooperative controlled surgical robotic system aims to make head and neck surgery safer. This system combines the precision and dexterity of a robot with the cognition and intelligence of a human surgeon. It can also be used to train surgeons and evaluate surgical skills.

Unfortunately, the team’s work was heavily impacted by delays caused by pandemic-related supply chain disruptions.

“Most notably, our device is reliant on the use of a commercial force sensor, and we ordered the sensor around late March, but we did not receive the control box necessary for data acquisition until after our final presentation,” said Seena Vafaee, a robotics graduate student on the Galen team.

As a result, Vafaee and Harsha Mohan, a first-year robotics graduate student, were unable to test the device in real drilling experiments. Instead, they focused on other aspects of the design and fabrication.

Team “Force Sensing Surgery for Skull Base Procedures” won this year’s Sisyphus Award, named for the figure from Greek mythology who is sentenced by Zeus to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity.

“The group coped with an unexpected difficulty gracefully,” said Taylor.

Robot System Control for Automating Mosquito Microdissection

Malaria vaccine production and distribution is a critical public health challenge for many developing countries. Although not prevalent in the U.S., malaria kills an estimated 400,000 people worldwide each year. Children under five years old comprise about two thirds of these fatalities.

The end goal of the research project – to automate gland extraction from mosquitos that carry malaria – has the potential to make malaria vaccines available to more people, said robotics graduate student Zhuohong “Zooey” He.

“My goal will be to implement improvements to the existing control algorithm to increase parallelism, add error recovery, and support the next generation hardware and computer vision efforts,” said He. “We are working on the third iteration of the robot system design, and we are making steady progress towards our end goal. There will most likely be a few more iterations before our system is ready for use.”

This research is in collaboration with Sanaria Inc., a biotechnology company based in Rockville, Maryland, that is developing a malaria vaccine using salivary glands extracted from Anopheles mosquitoes.

MRI-Compatible Skull-Embedded Implant for Direct Medicine
Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) is one of the most aggressive types of brain cancer. The median survival time for those diagnosed with GBM is 14.6 months. There are more than 18,000 new cases in the U.S. per year and the recurrence rate is over 90%.

The team is developing a skull-embedded implant that enables chronic infusion of medicine directly into the brain.

“The general implant allows for direct medicine delivery into the brain which allows for more effective and direct treatment of GBM and other chronic neurological diseases,” said Disha Mishra, third-year biomedical engineering student, who worked on the project with Mishra, Vivian Looi, a second-year computer science student, and Henry Noren, a third-year biomedical engineering student.

The team also devised a system that uses Bluetooth to deliver information about drug delivery rates to other devices from the implant.

This project has been ongoing for a few years in the Center for Neuroplastic Surgery Research. Significant progress has been made in the hardware components for the implant device, such as manufacturing all parts of the device with MRI-compatible material, developing the mechanisms for the pump that delivers drugs from the reservoir through the catheters, and designing the mechanism of power supply for the pumps.