One of the most popular concepts in scientific research today is interdisciplinarity. Collaboration between groups who work in different fields is complex, but it frequently results in major advances that could not be made unilaterally.
Collaboration between researchers and technologists from different fields was one of the reasons the Innotex Center/Intexter was founded. At this Center, we work in fields such as textile technology, environmental engineering, as well as environmental and health toxicology and microbiology.
One good example of the results of collaboration is Insewing, a surgical device for automatic suturing of the large intestine after being sectioned during surgery for colon cancer.Â
In Spain, 28,000 new cases of this kind of cancer are diagnosed a year, according to the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC). The main treatment of this disease involves surgery to remove the segment of colon containing the tumor. Then, the ends of the colon are joined to reestablish the continuity of the digestive tract. This procedure is known as anastomosis. The technique that surgeons use to sew the two sectioned parts of the colon is very important to the patient’s correct recovery.
To make the procedure easier, Innotex Center (a member of CIT UPC) has developed an automatic suturing device that introduces technology that is totally new in surgical anastomosis of the digestive tract.
The device was developed in the Innotex Center/Intexter, in collaboration with a group of robotics experts from the UPC’s Institute of Industrial and Control Engineering (IOC), led by Dr. R. Suárez and by a team from the Hospital del Vall d’Hebron, led by Dr. M. López Cano.
The concept of automatic suturing using bioresorbable material at the ends of tubular human tissue is pioneering, as no surgical tools currently exist to achieve this. In surgical anastomosis, surgeons generally use a tool to join the intestine using staples. However, metal staples may complicate the patient’s recovery, as they may subsequently cause considerable discomfort and problems. In some cases, surgeons suture the intestine by hand using resorbable suture material. However, this procedure is not widespread, as it requires great skill from the surgeon and lengthens the duration of surgery, which in turn increases the risk of infection.Â
The technology developed by the UPC uses sutures that the body can reabsorb and a fast, automatic suturing system. There were three main challenges in the development of the suture mechanism: the small dimensions of the intestine, the characteristics of the tissue, and the required precision. The Insewing device is also innovative because it combines a high precision mechanism with an advanced control system, developed by the IOC. The electronic component controls the moving parts at all times, and can be used to vary the speed and alter the programming of some characteristics of the suture.
The device has been patented and several surgical technology companies have shown an interest in it. Now the aim is to develop a clinical prototype and obtain approval, so that the device can be used in surgery and thus contribute to improving the patients’ recovery.
José Antonio Tornero
Coordinator of the Insewing Project