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Nanoflex develops catheter to treat stroke patients more rapidly

The start-up Nanoflex has developed an innovative catheter for operating on patients that have suffered a stroke. Surgeons can remotely steer the catheter via a computer, making it faster and easier to remove blood clots in the brain.

Nanoflex founder and ETH alumnus Christophe Chautems together with Silvia Viviani, a robotics engineer at the ETH spin-​off. 
Nanoflex founder and ETH alumnus Christophe Chautems together with Silvia Viviani, a robotics engineer at the ETH spin-​off. Image credit: Stefan Weiss/ETH Zurich

The Zurich-based firm Nanoflex Robotics, a spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), has developed an innovative catheter for rapid surgical interventions on stroke patients. Surgeons are able to steer the catheter by remote control and computer via a magnetic field, further details of which can be found in a press release. This means that the surgeon does not even have to be in the operating theatre during the procedure.

In contrast to conventional catheters, the tips of which can usually only be moved manually in two directions via a pull wire through the complex network of the blood vessels, the new type of catheter can be bent in all directions. Thanks to a magnetic head, the catheter tip developed by Nanoflex is “smaller, more maneuverable and safer due to the softness of the material”, explains Christophe Chautems, one of the three founders of Nanoflex, in the press release.

This is intended to avoid injuries to arteries and to open up what has previously been a highly demanding procedure to less experienced surgeons. According to the press release, there is currently a shortage of catheter specialists in hospitals, which the new system could help to counteract. Remote treatment is also possible with the system, meaning that experts can operate from anywhere.

The system and the associated software were developed by ETH Professor Bradley Nelson at the Multi-Scale Robotics Lab. He co-founded Nanoflex in 2021 alongside Christophe Chautems and Matt Curran. At present, a prototype is undergoing testing using a silicone model of the human body. The developers are aim is to secure US market authorization in two years’ time.

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