Surgical Technologies

Our research

Our Expertise

Our reseach specialises in core engineering-science:

  • Sensing Technology
  • Soft Systems
  • In-Vitro Simulation
  • Medical Robotics (with our partner STORM-lab)

and it's application to address clinical challenges:

  • Cardiac Assistance
  • Incontinence
  • Minimally Invasive Surgery
  • Rehabilitation + Medical Training


Past Projects

Sense and Sensibility: Soft Tactile Sensors

This project, a collaboration with Imperial College London, will develop and test a framework for optimising soft sensor systems. Our particular focus is the development of soft sensor systems which can be used to interrogate the force response of highly compliant materials (i.e. biological tissues). The research combines experimental and computational strands; we are developing the sensing platform using soft robotic techniques and optimising the configuration using a range of inverse-model based optimisation techniques.

Please see our Soft Sensing Toolkit website

Supported by Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2014-381).

Team: Pete Culmer, Ali Alazmani, Hongbo Wang, Jun Kow (PhD)

Contact: Pete Culmer

Sensing Tissue Trauma in Surgery

We are working to characterise and optimise the performance of surgical graspers used routinely in MIS. Research has shown that these instruments can induce damage as they are used to manipulate and retract delicate soft tissues. Our research is exploring this situation in several ways; firstly understanding how graspers are used by surgeons (quantifying the forces they apply), characterising the tissue response during simulated grasping and combining this with clinical histological measures (to assess resultant tissue damage) and finally exploring how graspers can be optimised to improve this situation.

Supported by EPSRC (EP/L022273/1)

Team: Pete Culmer, Greg Taylor, James Chandler, Jen Barrie (PhD), Dom Jones (PhD)

Contact: Pete Culmer

Accelerating Surgical Training

Modern surgical training is being forced to quickly adapt in light of increasingly complex procedures, restrictions on ‘hands-on’ training in the theatre and a need to objectively measure surgical proficiency.

Haptic Accelerated Training: The aim of this project is to understand how haptic technologies can improve motor learning. We are developing delivery of force fields through haptic robotic systems, including the MOOG Simodont dental trainer system. These systems will be used to further develop and test new adaptive algorithms for controlling the force fields.

The work is being conducted in close collaboration with the School of Dentistry the Institute of Psychological Sciences, at Leeds to allow students and the university to benefit from more efficient learning. This use of movement manipulation could also be implemented into a wide range of VR training equipment worldwide across a variety of disciplines in order to improve surgical training and rehabilitation.

Team: Faisal Mushtaq, Pete Culmer, Earle Jamieson, Jack Brookes (PhD)

Contact: Pete Culmer

Soft Robotic Cardiac Assistance

We are developing a soft active sleeve employed as a cardiac ventricular assist device that can deliver mechanical assistance to the arrested or failing heart, without contacting blood. The advantages of a non-blood contacting cardiac assist device include obviating the need for anti-coagulation therapy, as well as reduction in thromboembolic and infectious complications.

Team: Ali Alazmani, Osama Jaber (Leeds Teaching Hospitals, Pete Culmer

Contact: Dr Ali Alazmani

Soft Robotic Fabrication

We are investigating how to exploit advances in materials and structures to form new building blocks for soft robotics. Several geometries and mechanisms are being studied including foams, hierarchical laminates and microporous polymers. This project will develop and evaluate novel manufacturing techniques for the fabrication of soft structures with controlled meso-structure. This will leverage the advanced manufacturing capabilities of the EPSRC National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems at Leeds.

Team: Ali Alazmani, Pete Culmer, Jun Kow (PhD)

Contact: Dr Ali Alazmani

IMPRESS - Compliant Meshes for Pelvic Organ Prolapse

This research project is undertaken as part of the IMPRESS Research Fellowship position, held by Dr Elena Mancuso. It has been developed through close collaboration with textiles experts at Leeds University and aims to design and construct a three dimensional (3D) membrane, via a needless electrospinning technique, as a potential platform for the repair and regeneration of the human pelvic floor.

For more information please see the IMPRESS Project Page.

Contact: Dr Elena Mancuso

Maternal Health: Vacuum Assisted Delivery Simulation

This project will investigate the development of safer Vacuum Assistive Delivery (VAD) Devices to be used during complicated delivery in the second stage of labour. The project will develop a robust engineering understanding of the mechanics of VAD devices and their associated failure modes (in particular their effect on maternal and neonatal morbidity during second stage of labour). This knowledge will inform an investigation into VAD design optimisation for reduced trauma and increased reliability.

It features a close collaboration between the University of Leeds (UoL) and PELICAN FEMININE HEALTHCARE LIMITED, a medical devices SME, for innovative and truly multidisciplinary research and training for the development of obstetric devices.

Funded by MRC CASE PhD Studentship and in partnership with Pelican Healthcare.

Team: Pete Culmer, Ali Alazmani, Dushyant Goordyal (PhD)

Contact: Pete Culmer

IMPRESS - Fecal Continence System

An in-depth biomechanical understanding of the continence mechanism is needed for the development of emerging technologies for the treatment of Faecal Incontinence (FI). Flow properties through synthetic tubes and porcine tissue have been studied in the past, however they have simplified the system considerably and have not modelled the surrounding biological tissues with which the rectum interacts. Furthermore they do not attempt to replicate the complexities of dynamic pressure, volume and angulation changes in the anorectum during defecation.

This research seeks to develop a physical model of the faecal system for the future development and evaluation of feacal incontinence technologies.

Supported by the EPSRC IMPRESS Network

Team: Prof. David Jayne, Pete Culmer, Ali Alazmani, Will Stokes (PhD)

Contact: Pete Culmer

IAP – The Intra-Abdominal Platform for Surgical Support

The IAP system provides a surgical support platform to aid retraction in laparoscopic surgery. Developed over several years within the research group, we are currently working with industry partners and a clinical advisory group to develop and validate a complete system for commercialisation.

Supported by EPSRC IKC and NIHR i4i, in Collaboration with Pd-M International (Medical Device Design) and the NIHR HTC in Colorectal Therapies

Team: Prof. David Jayne, Pete Culmer, Mo Sanami

Contact: Pete Culmer

Past Projects

CoDIR - Colonic Disease Investigation by Robotic Hydro-colonoscopy

PhD student with hydro-colonoscopy

We’re collaborating with IMSaT, Dundee on this large EU funded project to develop a mobile robotic system for next-generation hydro-colonoscopy. The work is highly multidisciplinary and our team of PhD researchers have backgrounds in both engineering and surgery. Our work centres on understanding the complex geometry and mechanical nature of the colonic system (through mechanical characterisation) and developing novel robotic solutions for locomotion through this challenging environment.

Supported by the EU ERC Advanced Grant scheme

Team: Anne Neville, David Jayne, Pete Culmer, Ali Alazmani, Jordan Boyle, Joe Norton

Contact: Dr Ali Alazmani

Galvanostatic Tissue Sensing for Cancer Detection

We are pioneering work in electro-chemical sensing for tissue assessment. The ultimate goal is to provide new sensing modalities which can discriminate between diseased (cancerous) and healthy tissues, both intra-operatively and post-operatively, to aid the surgeon in obtaining the best clinical outcome for the patient.

Supported by Cancer Research UK (483355)

Team: Anne Neville, David Jayne, Pete Culmer, James Chandler (PhD)

Contact: Pete Culmer