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Keyhole surgery by rat

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Rats are fairly smart. Not smart enough to write "humans are fairly smart", but fairly smart nevertheless. They are, in fact, smart enough to be trainable.

I believe also that the notion of aqualungs for rats (as a counterpoint to dirigible goldfish bowls) have also been postulated on this forum some time ago. It's probably safe to assume, therefore, that they have since been perfected.

So. Step one is to train the rat to perform progressively more sophisticated surgical procedures, using silicone replicas* and a food-based reward system. Distinguishing an appendix from a colon, for example, could probably be taught in a week or so - only slightly longer than the time taken by medical students. Teaching the rat to either nibble through the neck of the appendix, or to slice it with tiny paw-mounted blades, may take a little longer but presents no fundamental challenge.

Teaching a rat to suture is, probably, tricky. However, medical adhesives are set to replace sutures, and a dispenser on the rat's free paw would not be difficult to realize.

Upon completion of training, the rat is ready to be sterilized (in the bacteriocidal sense of the word). It can then be introduced into a relatively modest incision, whereupon it will rummage around, do its job, and emerge bloodied but unbowed to receive its reward.

Why rats? I hear you ask. Well, there are several reasons. First, chimpanzees are too large (a pity, given their intelligence). Second, rats are fairly soft and compliant, and unlikely to bruise or damage tissues in the way that keyhole implements can.

*of the internal organs, not of the rat.

MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 04 2014

Moles (Talpidae) http://en.wikipedia...eathing_underground
Small, yet perfectly formed. [8th of 7, Feb 04 2014]

for smaller simpler jobs http://en.wikipedia...wiki/Maggot_therapy
Maggots used to remove dead tissue [popbottle, Feb 05 2014]


       Incidentally, before someone points out that a weasel can get through a hole the size of a wedding ring, we tried that. Weasels get disoriented and lost very, very easily.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 04 2014

       Plus, it could just eat diseased tissue, much like maggot therapy.
the porpoise, Feb 04 2014

       "It's probably safe to assume, therefore, that they have since been perfected"   

       Well, THERE'S a tagline...
normzone, Feb 04 2014

       Moles. Used to working in dark, damp confined spaces. Could be trained to treat appendices like earthworms. Very tolerant of high CO2 levels <link>. Not as intelligent as most rats, but probably more intelligent than most medical students.   

       Moles, definitely.
8th of 7, Feb 04 2014

       Might the the rat/mole/octopus reside inside you as a symbiant who continually tinkers with your inner workings in exchange for feeding? Preventative medicine is much better than acute.
the porpoise, Feb 04 2014

       //Might the the rat/mole/octopus reside inside you as a symbiant //   

       No, that would be an ant.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 04 2014


MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 04 2014

       Why not ? Have you got some sort of prejudice against moles ...?   

       Ahhhh ... you're not still fretting about "that incident" are you ? To be fair, the intercalary twin was uncharacteristically apologetic, and neither the moles nor the young lady came to any actual harm ... she seemed quite amused, actually, and no doubt she was well remunerated for her time and trouble.   

       Everyone else thought it was hilarious. C'mon, lighten up a bit. Can't take a joke, shouldn't have joined ...
8th of 7, Feb 04 2014

       If you had seen what a single mole can do to a croquet lawn in an afternoon, you would appreciate that they are unsuited to this task.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 04 2014

       Moles are ideally suited to parasite treatment; simply internalise a mole and let it eat any worms it comes across.
spidermother, Feb 05 2014

       Be nice, if the rats got small edible Doctor of surgery degrees. Karma, you know.
popbottle, Feb 05 2014

       How would you make the silicone smell right?   

       Also, have you considered those omnivorous black Russian squirrels? If something went wrong, their tails would make them easier to pull out.
pertinax, Feb 05 2014

       The way to go is cyborg rats, Shirley? It's probably quite easy to bung a camera on a rat... possibly a microscope too, for a bit of in-situ imaging. I know there are already remote controlled rats... we can't be that far off from being able to direct their nibbles, possibly even take control of some of their fine motor movements?   

       This way, the rats training can get it to the target organ and from there a remote surgeon can take a look and do the appropriate slashing.
bs0u0155, Feb 05 2014

       Thing is, the surgeon may have trained for ten years, but you can train a rat for half its lifetime.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 05 2014

       also, automated training is (sort of) baked. You could get a lot of numbers very quickly with automated training and a lot of rats. It's probably possible to train enough rats, pick the top 1% and they'll be outperforming regular surgeons anyway.
bs0u0155, Feb 05 2014

       Perhaps a small octupus?   

       Smaller than a rat, famously intelligent, an inherent love of wiggling through confined spaces and plenty of limbs and dexterity.
Loris, Feb 06 2014

       You probably could train a rat to chew off an appendix. However, without cauterizing the area of incision first, the patient will rapidly exsanguinate. The question therefore becomes this: Can you train a rat to safely operate a helmet mounted laser beam? I'd wager a pint that you cannot, but that's a pint I would be more than pleased to buy.
ytk, Feb 07 2014

       Will there be "Tom and Gerry" shaped entrance holes defined by the stitching outlines?
xenzag, Feb 07 2014

       //Perhaps a small octupus? //   

       No no no. Apart from being woefully mis-spelled, the octupus relies too much on vision, and not enough on smell and touch, to reliably navigate inside an unilluminated patient.   

       Fortunately, I have decided to volunteer [8th] as a test subject for this project, so there should be some useful information available soon.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 07 2014

       Quite aside from the difficulty involved in actually getting him *inside* a patient via a keyhole incision, I fail to see how having [8th] do it is going to provide any useful experimental data.
ytk, Feb 07 2014

       You haven't seen the elephant. Or the size of its sphincter.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 07 2014


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