Steady hands — a robot just helped doctors perform a novel eye surgery

Ommetaphobics, look away. If the idea of something touching your eye makes you a bit queasy, you certainly won’t like a medical innovation involving a robot, a needle, and your retinal vein. All the same, it’s an important development in the field of ophthalmology.

Belgian eye surgeons became the first to use a surgical robot to operate on a patient with retinal vein occlusion this week, with the robot employing a truly minuscule needle to do its work. Measuring barely 0.03 millimeters, the needle was used to inject a clot-dissolving drug into the patient’s retinal vein. Both the robot and the needle were made specifically for the surgery.

If the proof is in the pudding, consider this operation dessert. The process proved that it is indeed possible to dissolve a blood clot directly from the retinal vein — that is, if you have a robot to help you. This could lead to new treatments for retinal vein occlusion, which if left untreated, can lead to blindness. Currently, treatment for the disorder requires monthly injections in the eye, and while this reduces the effects of the blood clot, it does not completely remove the clot. This new injection method, however, changes the game.

The introduction of robots to the treatment has allowed for medicine to go where it has never gone before. Even the steadiest of human hands would not be able to hold such a small needle still for an extended period of time. A robot, however, can. While a surgeon is responsible for guiding the hair-thin needle into the vein, the robot eliminates any vibrations, which increases precision by a factor of 10. Once the retinal vein has been reached, the doctor can stabilize both the needle and the eye, allowing for the safe injection of the thrombolytic drug.

Not only is this treatment the first to truly address the problem at its core, it’s also significantly more affordable than previous alternatives. While current treatments can cost tens of thousands of dollars, ” … you’re only treating the side effects and that there is little more you can do than avoid reducing eyesight,” said Professor Peter Stalmans, eye surgeon at University Hospitals Leuven. “This is a high price tag, The robotic device finally enables us to treat the cause of the thrombosis in the retina. I look forward to what is next: if we succeed, we will literally be able to make blind people see again.”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Product Review

Want to see how powerful the Snapdragon 855 chip is? Just rev up the Xiaomi Mi 9

How fast do you want to go? If the answer to this is “as fast as possible,” then take a long look at the Xiaomi Mi 9. It’s one of the highest performance smartphones you can buy. It’s a real monster, and we’ve been using it.

5G's arrival is transforming tech. Here's everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.

These are the best memory foam mattress toppers for a better night’s sleep

You may not want to drop a bunch of cash on a new mattress, but with a good mattress topper, you may not have to. Modern technologies make it easier to get a good night's sleep, and we've rounded up the top 10 mattress toppers you can buy.
Emerging Tech

Asteroid Ryugu is porous, shaped like a spinning top, and is formed of rubble

The Japanese Space Agency has been exploring a distant asteroid named Ryugu with its probe, Hayabusa 2. Now the first results from study of the asteroid are in, with three new papers published.
Emerging Tech

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a super-speedy pulsar

A super-speedy pulsar has been spotted dashing across the sky, discovered using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Very Large Array. The pulsar is traveling at a breathtaking 2.5 million miles an hour.
Emerging Tech

Chilean telescope uncovers one of the oldest star clusters in the galaxy

An ultra-high definition image captured by the Gemini South telescope in Chile has uncovered one of the oldest star clusters in the Milky Way. The cluster, called HP 1, could give clues to how our galaxy was formed billions of years ago.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover giant chimneys spewing energy from the center of the galaxy

Astronomers have discovered two exhaust channels which are funneling matter and energy away from the supermassive black hole at the heart of our galaxy and out towards the edges of the galaxy, dubbed galactic center chimneys.
Emerging Tech

A milestone in the history of particle physics: Why does matter exist?

If matter and antimatter were both produced in equal amounts by the Big Bang, why is there so much matter around us and so little antimatter? A new experiment from CERN may hold the answer to this decades-long puzzle.
Emerging Tech

Dublin Airport has a novel idea for tackling rogue drones

There are a growing number of technology-based solutions for dealing with rogue drones flying near airports, but officials at Dublin Airport have come up with another idea for keeping the skies safe.
Emerging Tech

This sleek new exoskeleton makes walking easier, fits under your clothes

A new ankle exoskeleton that is designed to be worn under clothes can help people to walk without fatiguing — and without restricting natural motion or drawing attention to itself.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s latest breakthrough could make DNA-based data centers possible

Could tomorrow's data centers possibly store information in the form of synthetic DNA? Researchers from Microsoft have successfully encoded the word "hello" into DNA and then back again.
Emerging Tech

Here are the best (and least likely to explode) hoverboards you can buy

With widespread reports of cheap, knock-off Chinese hoverboards exploding, these self-balancing scooters may be getting a rough reputation. They're not all bad, though. Ride in style with our picks for the best -- and safest -- hoverboards