An anonymous reader writes: Scientists have created a robotic system that is capable of stitching up tissue in living animals without a human doctor pulling the strings. Wednesday’s research brings us one step closer toward autonomous surgical robots. While doctors did supervise the robot, the robot performed as well, and in some cases a bit better, as some competing surgeons in stitching together intestinal tissue of pigs used in the tests. Wednesday’s project is “the first baby step toward true autonomy,” said Dr. Umamaheswar Duvvuri of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He cautioned others to not expect to see doctors leave entire operations in a robot’s digital hands — yet. The tissue-stitching robot is designed to do one specific tasks, similar to machines in other industries. For example, robot arms do the welding and painting in most U.S. car assembly lines. The Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) system is equipped with suturing equipment plus smart imaging technologies to let it track moving tissue in 3D and with an equivalent of night vision. Sensors have been added to help guide each stitch and tell how tightly to pull. All the surgeons have to do is place fluorescent markers on the tissue that needs stitching, and the robot takes aim. Human studies should begin within the next few years. The STAR system is just one of many up and coming robots to put surgery into the hands of non-surgeons.
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