PLoS One. 2022 Sep 7;17(9):e0274063. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0274063. eCollection 2022.
Prostate cancer diagnosis and focal laser ablation treatment both require the insertion of a needle for biopsy and optical fibre positioning. Needle insertion in soft tissues may cause tissue motion and deformation, which can, in turn, result in tissue damage and needle positioning errors. In this study, we present a prototype system making use of a wasp-inspired (bioinspired) self-propelled needle, which is able to move forward with zero external push force, thereby avoiding large tissue motion and deformation. Additionally, the actuation system solely consists of 3D printed parts and is therefore safe to use inside a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system. The needle consists of six parallel 0.25-mm diameter Nitinol rods driven by the actuation system. In the prototype, the self-propelled motion is achieved by advancing one needle segment while retracting the others. The advancing needle segment has to overcome a cutting and friction force while the retracting needle segments experience a friction force in the opposite direction. The needle self-propels through the tissue when the friction force of the five retracting needle segments overcomes the sum of the friction and cutting forces of the advancing needle segment. We tested the performance of the prototype in ex vivo human prostate tissue inside a preclinical MRI system in terms of the slip ratio of the needle with respect to the prostate tissue. The results showed that the needle was visible in MR images and that the needle was able to self-propel through the tissue with a slip ratio in the range of 0.78-0.95. The prototype is a step toward self-propelled needles for MRI-guided transperineal laser ablation as a method to treat prostate cancer.