Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Device Burrows through Brains

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Device Burrows through Brains

Article excerpt

Washington University researchers unveiled a new technique Wednesday for brain surgery that they say will be safer and more efficient than current methods.

Rather than taking off part of the skull and cutting through the brain in a straight line, doctors would drill a small hole and insert a magnetic implant the size of a rice grain. They would then guide it to the target using a computer-controlled magnetic system.

The magnetic implant would deliver radiation to a tumor or drugs to a malfunctioning part of the brain.

"This way of doing brain surgery is very accurate and minimally invasive compared with the way we do it now," said Dr. Ralph G. Dacey Jr., head of neurological surgery at the university's School of Medicine.

Dacey will head a research team from St. Louis, the University of Iowa, the Medical College of Virginia and the University of Washington. Their work is supported by Stereotaxis Inc. and BJC Health System.

He emphasized that the technique was still experimental and won't be widespread for "a few years." But if proven successful, it promises to improve treatments for brain tumors, Parkinson's disease and other brain disorders.

So far the system has been tested on gelatin models of the brain. Tests will soon start on animals. Researchers hope tests with humans will begin within 18 months.

Stereotaxis holds worldwide patent rights on the technology. Company officials hope the research program will help demonstrate the system's safety and effectiveness and win federal approval for commercialization.

J. Michael Egan, president and chief executive officer, said the market for the system was "extremely large." He declined to discuss figures.

The company is moving to St. Louis from Livermore, Calif., near San Francisco.

The device, known as the Magnetic Stereotaxis System, is housed in the Magnetic Surgery Treatment Center at Barnes Hospital. …

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