Neural implants are being used to rehabilitate one’s body after injury, treat diseases, communicate with prosthetic limbs, improve memory, and much more. Hundreds of millions of dollars are devoted towards the study of neural implants, with the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. National Institutes of Health lending their support.
Top journals publish research papers on this topic on a regular basis. With so much buzz, it’s almost no surprise that some of the most innovative technologies, machine learning and AI, are being applied to neural implants.
Why Neural Implant Insertion Needs ML and AI
Neural implants alter one of our body’s core systems: the nervous system. This is responsible for our seeing, thinking, moving, and feeling – and it controls our cardiovascular, inflammatory, respiratory, and immune systems. Simply put, if our nervous system goes down, it all goes down. Neural implants are highly invasive – therefore, while implants have incredible medical potential, their use is limited. It’s hard to justify an implant unless a person is in severe medical need. But that is poised to change when minimally invasive implants are introduced.
Engineers are working on inventing medical devices that can reach deep into the body while having less of an impact on tissues. The goal is to decrease the surgical burden – and one of Intetics’ clients had an idea for us.
Our Client is a medical device company that discovers, develops, and commercializes innovative medicines for people with serious diseases of the central nervous system (CNS). The technology involves the surgical implantation of an electrode (small electrical conductor) into the sphenopalatine ganglion.
Essentially, the Client’s neurostimulator implant helps augment collateral blood flow. The procedure only takes five minutes, and stroke patients experience good results in less than 24 hours.
To help with the implanting process, the Client wanted to develop a desktop application that could be run on special computers. The application needed to assist surgeons by navigating during implant insertion. The software would process MRI images of the patient’s head, and ML & AI algorithms would work together to build a path for the neural implant. The path would be displayed on the screen over the MRI image.
The Client did not have a software development team; their group of experts consisted of scientists and doctors. We applied the Intetics Remote In-Sourcing model to create a development team of engineers. The team led the app development process and reported progress to the Client and stakeholders closely and were continuously involved in the development process.
Specifications to note:
- The Client would use the software for very sensitive surgery, so they needed Intetics to provide a high level of service
- The application needed to use C+ for speed and control but also to have a functional and friendly user interface
To meet all of the Client’s specifications, the Intetics Remote In-Sourcing team was formed and consisted of high-level professionals with knowledge in programming as well as the medical domain. The programmers needed to work with MRI and CT images alongside 3D models, which is why medical knowledge was necessary.
The team created an application, which is part of the Client’s hardware and software complex. With a special camera, an implant injector, a CT marker, and optimal markers, surgeons are able to see the patient’s head and the position of the implant in real-time.
The application fully emulates and presents to the surgeon everything that is happening while inserting the implant – and it’s in 3D view. As a result, surgeons are able to save many lives and improve their patients’ conditions after an ischemic stroke.
Technologies applied throughout this process included C++, ML, AI, Qt, Windows API, VTK, DICOM, Multithreading, CT, and MPR. The development team consisted of 7 people, including a Project Manager, System Analyst, Software Developers, QA Engineers, and a Designer.
The Bottom Line
The Intetics team was able to develop and implement the software solution within 1 year of conception. The Client was able to get the entire hardware and software complex FDA-certified, and it is now sold to US clinics. With the help of this application, surgeons are able to insert the Client’s neural implant in a much safer, more informed manner – thus giving hope to the millions of people suffering from stroke symptoms.
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