Gopesh Tilvawala has a fascinating journey that brought him to San Diego, but even more inspiring is the device he developed throughout the process. For the past four years, Tilvawala has been developing a catheter that can be remotely controlled to navigate tiny arteries in the brain.
Recently, his efforts were recognized when he received the People’s Choice Award and second place at the 2018 Collegiate Inventors Competition. The device is called Neurotendo, similar to Nintendo, because it actually resembles a Nintendo video game for neurosurgeons.
Neurotendo has the capability to diagnose and treat cerebral aneurysms, which are bulging spots in an artery near the brain. If they rupture, they are 40 percent fatal. Tilvawala wanted to be able to diagnose and treat these aneurysms both earlier and safer, while costing less.
While still in the development stage of Neurotendo, Tilvawala hopes to have a fully functional prototype of Neurotendo that can someday be applied to real-world situations.
“My main aim with Ph.D. research work was using this fundamental science to try and develop something that would translate into real world applications,” he said. “At least in terms of the vision, I had to be able to picture that my research would make a difference to someone out there someday.”
Currently, neurosurgeons who perform surgery on cerebral aneurysms need to use one hand on a guidewire and the other on the catheter to insert and guide the tube. Tilvawala’s device would make it possible to navigate the small and complex arteries near the brain with both hands, reducing surgery times and making it an overall safer procedure.
By utilizing his skills in hydraulics, micro-electronic mechanical systems, and soft robotics, Tilvawala made a device that could perform wider applications than just cerebral endovascular surgery. Neurotendo can also be used to navigate a catheter through the urinary tract, heart, or any other difficult spot.
“There’s so many things we can do that the sooner you finish solving one problem, there are a hundred more out there waiting. There is no dearth of problems, and ideas are no one’s monopoly,” he said. “That’s one of the things that keeps me wanting to wake up early and spend long hours in the lab, is figuring out how to solve problems and make a contribution to society.”