The digital revolution is sparking a transformation in traditional medicine. Robots, connected objects and big data are paving the way for a new, very high-tech approach. In Angers, two projects that would have been the stuff of science fiction a few years ago are now coming to fruition.
VR glasses to operate on brain tumors
Did you know that operations on some types of brain tumors are performed without anesthesia? Not out of sadistic pleasure (it’s totally painless), but out of necessity. In fact, it is crucial for surgeons to be able to check, in real time as they are operating, that they are not causing irreversible damage to essential parts of the brain, such as the ones that control motor skills and language.
On January 27, 2016, at the Anger University Hospital Center, Professor Philippe Menei’s team achieved a world first by removing a tumor from a patient who was awake and immersed in virtual reality thanks to 3D glasses. For this project, the Angers hospital worked in collaboration with the research laboratory at ESIEA, an engineering school for digital sciences and technologies.
These 3D glasses recreate a specific environment to serve two purposes: to induce a state of relaxation in the patient and, more importantly, to test complex brain functions, such as field of vision and cognition (memory, concentration, decision making). The project’s stakeholders are currently seeking funding to continue developing this equipment and the innovative software that goes with it.
An avatar to treat cancer
Under the leadership of Professor Mario Campone, Director of ICO (Western Regional Oncology Institute), a consortium of public and private partners, including pharmaceutical companies, local authorities and start-ups, has been set up to create an innovative research program that will be the only one of its kind in the world. Its goal is to create an avatar that is a replica of the patient to treat cancer. Leveraging a big data system, all the patient’s social and medical data (tumor type, history, physiological condition) could be saved and injected into the avatar in the form of an algorithm. Similarly, data on specific drugs could be added to calculate optimum doses and test their efficacy.
This solution would save precious time because it would immediately suggest the protocol that is best suited to the patient’s characteristics and cancer profile.
“This system would deliver an ultra-personalized, fundamental approach to optimize treatment, maintain the patient’s quality of life and reduce costs,” asserts Christian Houdoux, ICO spokesman.
Jean-Loup Chrétien, the first European astronaut sent into space, is sponsoring this project and will undoubtedly provide excellent technical expertise.