Scientists have created and prepared robots for performing soft tissue surgery. The robotic system stitched up living animals without a real doctor pulling the strings, but it isn’t ready yet for operating rooms.

The research, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday, is part of a move toward autonomous surgical robots. However, doctors are supposed to supervise and handle the rest of the surgery.

According to the reports, in small tests using pigs, the robotic arm performed at least well and in some cases a bit better as some competing surgeons in stitching together intestinal tissue.

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Scientists have created and prepared robots for performing soft tissue surgery. Photo credit:

“Without any direct human interaction, the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) reconnected the intestines with sutures that proved more accurate, evenly spaced and durable than those created by human hands,” the machine’s developers said.

Dr. Peter C.W. Kim of Children’s National Health System in Washington, a pediatric surgeon who led the project, said that the robotic arm wasn’t created with the intention of replacing surgeons but to use it as an “intelligent tool” in order to improve the surgeon outcome.

Dr. Umamaheswar Duvvuri of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a head and neck surgeon and robotic specialist who wasn’t involved in the project, describes it as is “the first baby step toward true autonomy.”

But robot-assisted surgery has been controversial because, according to some studies, it can bring higher costs without better outcomes, Fox News reported. But proponents believe that precision may outperform a human hand.

The new system is called STAR, which stands for Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot. STAR was developed to work as a programmable sewing machine.

How was STAR created and how does it work

This new system was created by Kim’s team at Children’s Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation. They took a standard robotic arm and equipped it with suturing equipment. They also included smart imaging technologies to let it track moving tissue in 3-D and with an equivalent of night vision. Plus, sensors were added to help guide each stitch and tell how tightly to pull.

The surgeon places markers on the tissue that needs stitching and, under doctor’s supervision, the robot takes aim.

Currently, Robot arms are used to do the welding and painting in most U.S. car assembly lines, to find inventory in warehouses, and many cars are even capable of warning the drivers they’re too close to the car in front, or take control and apply the brakes to prevent a crash.

Source: Science Translational Medicine