STING Needle Innovation

How the wood wasp is changing the needle game by… laying eggs!


1. What is it?

STING- Soft Tissue Intervention and Neurosurgical Guide

The STING project is currently developing a state of the art flexible needle engineered to allow fine control  and create alternative routes around specific areas in precision surgery. Inspired by the wood wasp, an interlocking mechanism connecting segments of the STING needle together can be robotically manoeuvred to travel through soft tissue as directed.

Neurosurgery so far uses straight needles the surgeon carefully guides on a case by case basis of the patient’s requirements. However, the STING needle is here to take it to the next level and allow the surgeon to improve brain disease management. In the near future, we may be able to operate on tumours in the most sensitive areas of the human body previously unable to enter the theatres table. 

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2. Why is it important?

Neurological disorders are costing the UK £112 billion a year, that’s almost the entire net worth of the richest person in the world- Jeff Besoz’ the founder of Amazon. com!

Here is the breakdown of how each type of brain disorder is affecting our economy:

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In order to tackle the surgical needs of neurological disorders, we plan to move towards minimal invasive surgery. The keyhole surgery technique is one which has been adapted to different parts of the body successfully already. But researchers are now looking to create better controlled equipment to tackle the the “no go” zone to enable better diagnostics and therapeutics of neurological disorders. 

As a result, the STING project is a part EDEN2020 project by the EU to develop the gold standard method in this field. 

Advancing the technology in this field can enable us to help more patients and increase their Quality of Life, allowing better prospects for the economy. 

3. How does it work?

The STING needle is designed to have multiple segments. Each segment is able to slide over the others, creating a steering angle with better control in small spaces. The analogy used is of a bicycle, where the handlebar is turned to control where the tyres are to follow.

The 3D kinematic model illustrates the steering angle and the approach angle is calculated –

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In comparison to the conventional needle we know and use today, results show a significant improvement in the curvature potential with just 2 segments:

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Overall the STING needle mechanism allows for-

  • steering control
  • concentric tubes
  • programmable bevel tip

You can also watch a video to see real footage of how the needle operates here.

4. The future

  • localised drug delivery for better delivery accuracy- focused on cancer therapy
  • micro neurosurgery for less invasive procedures
  • clinical analysis and diagnosis for more targeted biopsy sample collections

5. Who is involved?

The Mechanotronics in Medicine team at Imperial College London, affiliated with:





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