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C.M. Heunis (Christoff)

Researcher

About Me

Christoff joined the Surgical Robotics Lab in January 2017 to pursue a doctoral degree. He recently graduated and is continuing his research as a postdoctoral fellow

He is trained to adapt and integrate embedded sub-systems for health care applications, with a specific focus on surgical robotics, magnetic actuation systems, and medical image processing. His research includes designing clinical equipment for the treatment of endovascular, cardiovascular, and oncological disorders.

Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, he received his Bachelor in Mechatronic Engineering in 2014 from the University of Stellenbosch. Here, he also obtained his M.Eng in Biomedical Engineering in 2016 as part of the Biomedical Engineering Research Group (BERG).

Recently, Christoff has co-founded a spinoff company, Flux Robotics, aiming to commercialize robots that assist surgeons during magnetic surgeries. 

Fields of interest

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Continuum Robotics
  • Mechatronic Design
  • Medical Image Processing

Expertise

Engineering & Materials Science
Catheters
Imaging Techniques
Magnetic Fields
Robotic Surgery
Robotics
Surgery
Ultrasonics
Chemistry
Robotics

Research

The current practice of endovascular procedures is limited by a number of factors. These factors include patient-specific operation requirements, high-risk surgery procedures, and time-consuming operations. As a solution, continuum manipulators with a focus on magnetically actuated surgical catheters, have been introduced to the field of surgical robotics. These instruments are manually inserted into the body, duct, or vessel and can be used for fluid drainage, disease treatment or to reach certain sites in the body for targeted drug delivery.

Manual insertion and maneuvering of steerable catheters can be accomplished via tendon actuation and guidewires. However, limitations like buckling and friction of the tendons and cables tend to surface. Consequently, magnetically-controlled catheter actuation and navigation systems, or magnetic manipulation systems (MMS), have been introduced. Using magnetic systems to steer catheters allow for high-precision steering in the endovascular network, less radiation exposure and shorter operation durations than conventional navigation systems. Moreover, they have proven to provide enhanced dexterity to clinicians performing minimally invasive surgical procedures, showing higher success rates after surgeries and providing enlarged workspaces. My goal is to explore these advantages by means of controlling magnetically-actuated catheters inside a clinically relevant experimental setup suitable for endovascular surgeries. 

Publications

Recent
Mohanty, S., Fidder, R. J., Matos, P. M. , Heunis, C. M. , Kaya, M. , Blanken, N. , & Misra, S. (2022). SonoTweezer: An acoustically-powered end-effector for underwater micromanipulation. IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control, 69(3), 988-997. https://doi.org/10.1109/TUFFC.2022.3140745
Heunis, C. M., Wotte, Y. P. , Sikorski, J. , Phillips Furtado, G. , & Misra, S. (2020). The ARMM system - Autonomous steering of magnetically-actuated catheters: Towards endovascular applications. Paper presented at International Conference on Robotics and Automation, ICRA 2020, Paris, France.
Heunis, C. M., Belchiorinho Farola Marques Barata, B. , Phillips Furtado, G. , & Misra, S. (2020). Collaborative Surgical Robots: Optical Tracking During Endovascular Surgery. IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, 27(3), 29-44. [9042842]. https://doi.org/10.1109/MRA.2020.2976300
Heunis, C. M. , Sikorski, J. , Phillips Furtado, G. , & Misra, S. (Accepted/In press). The ARMM System: Demonstrating Clinical Feasibility in Steering Magnetically Actuated Catheters in Endovascular Applications. 3360. Poster session presented at 2019 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Macau, China.
Heunis, C. M., Belfiore, V., Vendittelli, M. , & Misra, S. (Accepted/In press). Reconstructing Endovascular Catheter Interaction Forces in 3D using Multicore Optical Shape Sensors. In Proceedings of the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) (pp. 5419-5425)

UT Research Information System

Google Scholar Link

Affiliated Study Programmes

Master

Projects

ARMM - Advanced Robotics for Magnetic Manipulation (02/2017 – Present)
Developed a novel and highly-versatile system for the magnetic actuation of endovascular surgical instruments.

Contact Details

Visiting Address

University of Twente
Faculty of Engineering Technology
Horst Complex (building no. 20), room Z136
De Horst 2
7522LW  Enschede
The Netherlands

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Mailing Address

University of Twente
Faculty of Engineering Technology
Horst Complex  Z136
P.O. Box 217
7500 AE Enschede
The Netherlands

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