Thursday, April 14, 2011

Surgeons? No thanks, I prefer robots.

Every day, technology continues to grow and revolutionize the world.  It has exceeded anything our grandparents could fathom.  During their youth, the notion of examining an unborn baby in its mother’s womb was limited to imagination. Today, ultrasounds are used daily to monitor the health of the baby and its mother.

Countless medical inventions have bettered understand of the functions of the body. The stethoscope by Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laënnec has expanded our learning on the circulatory and respiratory system by allowing doctors to listen to the patient’s breathing and heartbeat.  The X-Ray by Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen lets doctors investigate within the patients’ bodies, including their bones. The endoscope by Phillip Bozzini permits doctors to investigate within the body, especially the digestive, urinary, respiratory and cardiovascular system. Composed of a lighting system, image transmission system, bending mechanism and channels for air, the endoscope has permitted a deeper examination of the human body. 

One medical advancement from Canada is the discovery of insulin (Figure 1). Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas.  It decreases the blood glucose level by increasing its rate of utilization by the cells. Without insulin, the raised sugar levels may cause damage to the heart, eyes, kidneys and nerves. Therefore, insulin saved the lives of millions of diabetic patients.

Other Canadian medical contributions include the invention of the bone marrow compatibility test by Barbara Bain in 1960, the world’s first heart pacemaker by Dr. John A. Hopps in 1950 and the invention of a dual tone receiver by Michael C.J. Cowpland in 1972. The heart pacemaker was further developed by William Greatbatch who inserted a minute battery, inventing the first implantable pacemaker (Figure 2).

Recently, Canada has performed the world’s first all-robot surgery. Canadian physicians have successfully treated a prostatectomy patient using a Da Vinci surgical robot and an anaesthetic robot named “McSleepy”. It is the first of its kind to administer anaesthesia to a patient. McSleepy was developed by McGill University in Montreal, Canada. This computerized system administers three standard drugs used for putting patients under for surgery, and monitors their effects automatically. McSleepy can calculate the appropriate drug doses of anaesthesia faster and more precisely than a human. This piece of technology has been designed to analyze biological information and adapt to changes.

Currently, Professor Jake Barralet of McGill University is working to develop artificial bones. Although this research is under clinical trials, scientists have discovered a new technique of growing artificial bones from a modified version of an ink jet printer (Figure 3). Professor Jack Barralet described the process: "The 'paper' in our printer is a thin bed of cement-like powder. The ink jet sprays the cement with an acid which reacts with it and goes hard. That deals with one layer. Then new layers of fresh powder are sprayed on top and the layers build up to the shape we need". If the studies are completed, and the results are successful, this would be a major breakthrough in the field of bone graft surgery.


Figure 1: Insulin was discovered by Banting and Best at the University of Toronto. Insulin lowers the blood glucose by increasing the rate of utilization by the cells. 

Figure 2: A pacemaker is a small device to helps the heart to beat more regularly. Pacemakers can help adjust heartbeats that are too slow, too fast or irregular.
Figure 3: The process of creating artificial bones, currently being studied and tested by Professor Jake Barralet of McGill University. This is creates perfect facsimiles of bones that can be used to replace the damaged bones.

Work Cited

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Bellis, Mary. "Invention of the Cardiac Pacemaker - Artificial Hearts - Electrocardiography." Inventors. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <>.

Bland, Eric. "Discovery News : Discovery Channel." Discovery Channel : Science, History, Space, Tech, Sharks, News. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <>.

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Naveen. "Top 10 Artificial Technologies Ready To Create A Real Human Being - Science Ahead." Science Ahead: This Blog Is a Window to the Ever-happening World of 'science' The Blog, Complete with Information and Views, Introduces Amazing Developments in Arenas like Technology, Nanotechnology, Space, Gadgets, Robots, Communication, Architecture Etc. N.p., 23 Apr. 2007. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <>.

Roguin, Ariel. "Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laënnec (1781–1826): The Man Behind the Stethoscope." Clinical & Medical Research. N.p., 1 July 2006. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laënnec (1781–1826): The Man Behind the Stethoscope>.

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Blogs Commented


Hey Jamie! The structure of your blog is nice as the information of your research is displayed and fitted appropriately. After reading this blog, it is my first time acknowledging the invention of the pacemaker. I can't believe how technology has transformed over the years. McSleepy, the robotic surgeon, still seems a bit iffy for me. Technology is still technology, it may have faults as the years go by. A computer, even in the form of a robot, still can crash and fail in any circumstance. I would NOT trust a robot to operate on me, so no thank you :P.
I am amazed that robots are already introduced to aid in surgeries. Although the robot only administers anaesthetics, it makes me think that a robot whom performs surgery will be invented in the near future. Although it is great and all, as Judy metioned above, robots have a possibility of glitches and failure. Since humans are imperfect, it is unlikely that their creations will be completely perfect. I am unsure about leaving life and death in a robot's hands.

I like the idea of artificial bones being created, because this will prevent many patients the pain of losing a limb. It will probably also be a better alternative to prosthetics.
Hey Jamie(:

When I first read your blog, I really liked how detailed it was in with as little words as possible; it really made me more interested in your blog.

I find the robot surgery really interesting. At first, I didn’t realize that Canada had the technology to change the medical world but after reading about it, my opinion about Canadian medical technology changed. I realized that Canada can change the medical world. With robots helping doctors do the surgery, it could make the surgery be more efficient. Although an all – robot surgery sounds interesting, I wouldn’t want to get one since it is still new. There could still be some glitches without the doctor’s knowing. It does sound like a good idea though... maybe 50 years later, when everything is stabilized.

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