Making robotic surgeries more efficient and interactive

Aspiring surgeons find surgical simulators very helpful as a training tool. However, most of these simulators use simplified tool-tissue interaction because of the real-time feedback required. This problem can be overcome if finite models are developed.

Abhishek Mukherjee, a research scholar with the IITB-Monash Research Academy, is therefore working on a project titled ‘Modeling of the interaction of soft tissues and cells with their environment’.

It is well-documented that during surgery the tissue response is a function of force (applied by the surgeon), tool position, and the path taken by the surgeon. Abhishek is attempting to develop tool-tissue interaction models to predict feedback which could directly be fed to the haptic device if the simulations can be conducted in real time. And just in case real time computations are slow, realistic simulations could be carried out offline and fitted into meta-models, which could then be used for feedback from the haptic device.

“A part of my project deals with modeling the interaction between a robotic surgical tool and tissue to characterize the mechanical properties of the tissue. Through this, we may be able to detect the presence of a tumor embedded in it,” says Abhishek excitedly. “And then there’s the other part, where I plan to model stresses on cells when they migrate through 3D channels. This is likely to give us more insight into the physics behind such processes. Cancerous cells take more time to migrate than healthy ones, and thus might serve as a bio-indicator. Bio-mechanical interactions are complex because they cannot simply be analyzed from a mechanical standpoint — there are several biological processes involved too. I relish the possibility that I get to unravel some of nature’s best kept secrets by understanding how bio-mechanisms work. The model that we have developed could make robotic surgeries more efficient and interactive.”

A three-dimensional computational model of an indentation process to detect an embedded cancerous nodule. The colours indicate stress development in the system with red indicating high stress and blue low stress conditions.

The IITB-Monash Research Academy is a collaboration between India and Australia that endeavours to strengthen scientific relationships between the two countries. Graduate research scholars like Abhishek study for a dually-badged PhD from both IIT Bombay and Monash University, spending time at both institutions to enrich their research experience.

Says Prof Murali Sastry, CEO of the IITB-Monash Research Academy, “The first part of Abhishek’s project holds a lot of promise for efficient robotic surgery in that there is a major push to make robotic surgery more interactive and make robots ‘feel’. Unfortunately, mathematical models to do are still to be developed. Robotic surgeries are currently done based on distance estimation to the target organs, but incorporating a touch or force sensation would make the process more intuitive and interactive for the surgeons operating on it remotely. The second part of the project is important to understand the physical phenomenon behind cell migration through constricted spaces. This could give more insight into understanding the dislocation of cancer cells from their primary location to lodging themselves in a separate location to give rise to secondary tumors. Understanding these phenomena could go a long way in treating cancers.”

Abhishek Mukherjee

Research scholar: Abhishek Mukherjee, IITB-Monash Research Academy

Project title: Modeling of the interaction of soft tissues and cells with their environment

Supervisors: Prof Ramesh Singh, Prof Shamik Sen, Prof Abhishek Gupta, Prof Wenyi Yan

Contact details:


The above story was written by Mr Krishna Warrier based on inputs from the research student, his supervisors, and IITB-Monash Research Academy. Copyright IITB-Monash Research Academy.