Methodist Journal



The Burgeoning Field of Cardio-Oncology

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Barry H. Trachtenberg Leads Issue on Cardio-Oncology

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Heart Failure in Relation to Anthracyclines and Other Chemotherapies

Heart Failure in Relation to Tumor-Targeted Therapies and Immunotherapies

The Role of Cardiovascular Imaging and Serum Biomarkers in Identifying Cardiotoxicity Related to Cancer Therapeutics

Prevention and Treatment of Chemotherapy-Induced Cardiotoxicity

Cardiovascular Toxicities of Radiation Therapy

Electrophysiologic Complications in Cancer Patients

Vascular Toxicity in Patients with Cancer: Is There a Recipe to Clarify Treatment?

Future Directions in Cardio-Oncology


A Rare Case of Pancreatitis-Induced Thrombosis of the Aorta and Superior Mesenteric Artery

Anomalous Origin of the Right Coronary Artery from the Left Main Coronary Artery in the Setting of Critical Bicuspid Aortic Valve Stenosis

Simultaneous Transfemoral Mitral and Tricuspid Valve in Ring Implantation: First Case Report with Edwards Sapien 3 Valve

Uneventful Follow-Up 2 Years after Endovascular Treatment of a High Flow Iatrogenic Aortocaval Fistula Causing Pulmonary Hypertension and Right Heart Failure


Do Not Pass Flow: Microvascular Obstruction on Cardiac Magnetic Resonance After Reinfarction Following Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention



Cardio-Oncology, Then and Now: An Interview with Barry Trachtenberg


Onconephrology: An Evolving Field


Herbal Nephropathy


Rolling the Dice on Red Yeast Rice


Letter to the Editor in Response to “Cardiac Autonomic Neuropathy in Diabetes Mellitus”

Vol 9, Issue 3 (2013)

Humanities Full Text


Smart Probe

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Article Citation:

Smart Probe. Methodist DeBakey Cardiovascular Journal: July 2013, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 178.

The NASA Smart Probe, ? which actually “learns”
from experience, ? originated at
a 1992 ? meeting convened
“to discuss the common ? challenges between
neurosurgery and ? soil analysis.”

Researchers realized ? that both fields were seeking
“improved accuracy ? for probe placement,”
and that both would benefit ? from a probe
that not only extracted ? target matter
but also could convey ? information.

Equipped with an array ? of multimodal
sensors, the surgical ? Smart Probe registers
environmental features ? such as pH,
partial oxygen pressure, ? tissue stiffness,
electrical activity ? and blood flow.

The heart ? of the probe is a 6000-pixels
fiber optic camera. ? The chemical
composition of the tissue can ? be read
in the reflected light; ? the different
waveforms correspond ? to different tissue types.

“Originally trained ? on tofu
because of its ? similar consistency
to brain tissue, ? the Smart Probe is ready
to change its ‘diet.’” ? Animal trials
are measuring ? the sensor signatures

in fat, muscle, kidney, spleen ? and various
regions of the brain. ? It has even begun
amassing data ? on abnormal
tissue by ? examining human
mammary tumors grown ? on the backs of rats.

The neural net is “taught” ? to interpret
weighted sensor data, ? relating readings
to a population ? or within
an individual. ? The moment the thin
needle-sized instrument ? is inserted,

it starts ? to assemble a model
of what is normal. ? When the confidence
level around ? the sensor values is
exceeded, ? it generates a “malignant”
output in ? a fraction of a second.

“This space-age technology won’t ? remain
earthbound.” ? The Smart Probe is scheduled to function
“as part of a ? ‘robotic astrosurgeon’”
attending the crew ? aboard a two-year
Mars mission planned ? for 2020.

Dr. Russell Andrews ? of NASA Ames
Research Center explains: ? “It may sound
like Star Trek, ? but much of the technology
is already here…. ? You could be in Maine
and perform an operation ? in Iceland.”

If symptoms appeared ? during the mission,
a Probe could be ? introduced into the brain,
and the software would compare ? real-time values
with archived parameters ? from pre-launch scans.
“The surgeon, perhaps on Earth, ? could issue

high-level commands,” ? and it could execute
the procedure, if needed. ? We no longer
have to depend on inexact ? tactile feedback;
“This apparatus permits ? finer control
than is possible ? with the human hand.”

Robust, reliable, ? lightweight, compact,
Smart Probes will serve ? multiple purposes.
During the long flight, ? they will assist
in research, ? monitoring, for example,
the effects of weightlessness. ? And after

touchdown, scores ? of Probes will be dispersed
across the surface, ? to analyze tiny
samples of ? planetary terrain
for useful minerals, ? or, conceivably,
even evidence ? of organic life.

— Melissa Monroe

Editor’s note: “Smart Probe” contains intralinear breaks or pauses, known as caesuras. Their use dates in English language
poetry to Old English and Beowulf (8th to 11th century); they function to separate metrical units or contrasting ideas or to
provoke thought.

Melissa Monroe is a poet who teaches at the New School for Social Research in New York. “Smart Probe” is one of a
series of poems she has written about medical instruments. She is the author of Machine Language, and a new book, On
Trepanation and Human Nature, is forthcoming.