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Chilli crab scoffing boffins build anti-cancer claw robot

New stomach tumour busting gadget inspired by top Asian nosh

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The fight against cancer reached a weird new level after Singapore’s centuries-old chilli crab dish inspired boffins to build a tumour-removing robot.

Widespread reports explain that the gear, which is mounted on an endoscope, has a small pair of pincers to grab the affected area, an even smaller hook to slice off the cancerous cells and stop bleeding, and a tiny camera to allow the doctor to operate it.

The crustacean-themed life-saving robot apparently came about after leading experts from Singapore's National University Hospital and Nanyang Technological Institute sat down with Hong Kong surgeon Sydney Chung over a seafood dinner.

The talk turned, as it does, to stomach cancer, and Chung suggested they build a device that imitates the claws of a crab, which are incredibly strong yet capable of very delicate and precise movements.

"Many things are a certain way because they have evolved and adapted to certain functions ... we created something that followed the human anatomy and borrowed ideas from nature and incorporated the two," Nanyang Technological Institute associate professor Louis Phee told Reuters.

Five patients at Singapore’s National University Hospital have already reportedly had early-stage stomach cancer removed by the claw-like device, the design of which started nearly eight years ago. The robotic gadget could be ready for commercial use in another three.

Quite what the hawkers of Singapore’s fabled food markets think about one of their most famous creations being associated with a life-threatening illness remains to be seen, although given that stomach cancer kills close to 900,000 worldwide every year, you'd think they'd be OK with it. ®

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