2. For Visitors
  3. NU Research
  4. Highlights
  5. Medical−engineering cooperation for safe and secure surgical treatments


Medical−engineering cooperation for safe and secure surgical treatments

  • Read in Japanese
  • 2015/05/08
  • Visiting Associate Prof. Keiko Irie
  • Assistant Prof. Tomonaga Ueno

Assistant Prof. Tomonaga Ueno and Visiting Associate Prof. Keiko Irie of the Social Innovation Design Center (SIDC), Institute of Innovation for Future Society, corroborated the utility of a simulation tool for cerebral aneurysm surgery. They cooperated with Dr. Takeshi Okura, a medical doctor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Nagoya Kyoritsu Hospital.
This surgical tool was prepared and rendered by 3D printing from the 3D images of blood vessels in patients' brains; thus, ensuring the precision of the operation before the surgery was performed. "The simulation tool was very helpful for promoting safer operations," Dr. Okura stated.
The SIDC has projected that social problems will be identified and innovative tools will be developed and implemented in society to solve such problems. The simulated blood vessel models are planned for practical usage in medical institutions by the end of 2015, constructing an on-demand supply system collaborated with the venture capital, Nagoya Rapid Products Inc.→ Nagoya University Press Release

In order to address unsolved social problems, researchers have started to identify people’s actual needs in society.

Today, the development of science and technology has made our lifestyles increasingly convenient.

However, if the current scenario continues, these advances will create new and unsolved problems, such as the growing elderly population, energy issues, and environmental problems. Thus, to maintain the quality of our society, we now have to think about what can be done and move into action.

―However, how can this be done?

The solution is to predict the future, and then look back at the present situation while bearing in mind society’s goals.

Researchers at the SIDC at the Institute of Innovation for Future Society at Nagoya University think outside the box, identifying social needs with the concepts of free and various values. The optimal solution is to develop innovative technical and systematic tools while striving to bring them to commercial reality.

Since April 2014, the SIDC has conducted mini-projects. Researchers are now on their way toward meeting each goal of these projects, and their understanding of both the problems in our society faces and social needs give them the skills to start solving the issues.


―Small innovation for a big innovation

Mini-projects at the SIDC are the driving force behind innovation. Currently, the following projects are in progress:

  • Empathy + cooperation laboratory (e+co.lab)
  • Mobility project
  • Urban development project
  • Medical project
  • Interactive education tool project

The first step in innovation is to identify pressing problems in society. Ideas are then developed and demonstrated to address these societal needs.

“After obtaining research results, our aim is to take only a couple of years, not 30 years to advance them to practical use in society.”

Collaboration is for identifying problems on such pressing research projects. Visiting Associate Prof. Keiko Irie and Assistant Prof. Tomonaga Ueno focus on working jointly on the medical project.

Visiting Associate Prof. Irie is a medical doctor in the Department of Neurosurgery, Nagoya Kyoritsu Hospital. Assistant Prof. Ueno is a specialist in material engineering in the Graduate School of Engineering, Nagoya University.

Thus, this project is the result of medical−engineering cooperation, started because of challenging experiences in clinical practice.

“Whatever cheap or disposable would be, I want to do something better.”

Visiting Associate Prof. Irie has been struggling with the challenge of training for surgery and obtaining informed consent from her patients.

For example, the rupture of a cerebral aneurysm that causes a serious subarachnoid hemorrhage requires a craniotomy and surgical clipping around the aneurysm, but the blood vessels in the brain are complex, and the site of aneurysm can be unique in each patient.

In fact, doctors’ rich experience and judgement are the only reliable factors in surgery. Doctors often feel that if they could better explain the surgical sites to their patients, the patients would better understand what they were operating. This is also the desire of Visiting Associate Prof. Irie, who has experienced this challenge.

“Striving to ensure even safer surgeries,”

Visiting Associate Prof. Irie attended several symposiums, and collecting information on safer surgical treatments. She then asked Prof. Nagahiro Saito, the director of SIDC, for his advice. Prof. Saito proposed simulated 3D models of individual patients created by means of a 3D printer. This was the start of the project.

The project involves a simulated 3D model rendered from the CT-scanned data of a patient (Figure 1). Doctors, using this custom-made model, expect it to be helpful for visualizing the actual surgical procedure and even for trouble-shooting before the surgery.

Figure 1. The 3D model of skull bone and cerebral blood vessel, rendered from the CT-scanned data of a patient, to be helpful for image training before the surgery.

After 3D printers went off-patent in the USA, anyone could manufacture objects cheaply and easily; therefore, a range of new projects is now being carried out worldwide. Thus, the use of 3D printers is not completely new.

“However, materials should be developed for this purpose,” said Assistant Prof. Ueno, an expert in materials development. He added that materials for 3D printing are still under development for medical use.

This problem has been overlooked because they had required the expertise of different specializations. If such materials for the 3D models are developed through the collaboration, they could lead to innovation in 3D printing.

“We have identified specific needs because of medical−engineering cooperation,”

Assistant Prof. Ueno stated, adding that he has found the starting point to developing the materials, and is progressing step by step toward the SIDC’s goals.

Figure 2. Representative 3D models provided by Nagoya Rapid Products Inc. (Left: a skull bone, Right: a cerebral blood vessel).


Visiting Associate Prof. Irie founded Nagoya Rapid Products Inc. with the slogan “We deliver your products rapidly.” She has supplied simulated 3D models of blood vessels in the brain for medical purposes (Figure 2).

Assistant Prof. Ueno, on the other hand, has started developing materials for the 3D models. He wishes to strive for the betterment of society in a couple of years.

To realize innovation, Professors Irie and Ueno also mentioned that laws must sometimes be changed. They are now stepping forward to advance innovative activities in each of their professional fields.

For a safe and secure medical environment

―the needs found through the medical-engineering cooperation will be key to their implementation in society.

(Ayako Umemura)

Researchers featured in this article

Dr. Keiko IrieVisiting Associate Professor, Institute of Innovation for Future Society, Nagoya University

Dr. Irie is currently a medical doctor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Nagoya Kyoritsu Hospital. She is also a representative director of Nagoya Rapid Products Inc., and in 2014, concurrently started a project at the Social Innovation Design Center (SIDC), Institute of Innovation for Future Society, Nagoya University.


Dr. Irie enjoys the academic atmosphere of Nagoya University. She says, “I enjoy the free research and entrepreneurial spirit of Nagoya University. I can reach many researchers here and share ideas, and also I can get their energy, which encourages me so much.”
Dr. Irie is an adorable woman who thrives on the challenges of solving existing problems. I was impressed and inspired by her innovative thinking (by AU)

Dr. Tomonaga UenoAssistant Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Nagoya University

Dr. Ueno is an assistant professor in the Department of Materials, Physics and Energy Engineering. His specialty is physical chemistry, non-equilibrium systems, reaction-diffusion systems, and polymer materials. Since 2014, Dr. Ueno has conducted two mini-projects, a medical project and an interactive education tool project, at the Social Innovation Design Center (SIDC), Institute of Innovation for Future Society, Nagoya University.


Dr. Ueno has also been involved in a couple of on-going projects besides the mini-projects of SIDC. “I am trying not to pile up the stress at work,” says Dr. Ueno.
Staying focused, Dr. Ueno intensely concentrates on his current work. During the interview, I discovered from his gentle personality how he successfully undertakes multiple roles at the same time (by AU)


  • Institute of Innovation for Future Society HP  http://www.coi.nagoya-u.ac.jp/en
  • Nagoya Rapid Products Inc.
       Representative director : Keiko Irie
       Description of business : The manufacture of simulators, related to medical practice
       Address : Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya-shi 
            Room no. 115, Green Mobility Research Center, Nagoya University


To the Top of This Page