Brain tumor surgery is pretty advanced and fancy these days. There are many technologies that help the neurosurgeon operate accurately without harming normal brain tissue. Such technologies include microscopy, neuro-navigation, intraoperative contrast enhancement, intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), neurophysiological monitoring, intraoperative ultrasound, awake surgery and many others.
Unfortunately, nature has come up with a group of brain tumors that can neither be recognized with the naked eye nor with a microscope during surgery. Those tumors are particularly similar to normal brain tissue and are more challenging to operate on. If the tumor resection is incomplete the patient might suffer from earlier recurrence and shorter survival. If the resection is too large the patient might have serious neurological deficits after surgery.
In its cellular structure and composition, the tumor is very much different from the brain, though. Brain cells have a very tidy arrangement and they form brain fibers that run a very precise and predetermined course. The tumor on the other hand, consists of a pile of erratic and nonfunctional cells. How come we can see it so easily if we look at the single cell but can’t recognize the tumor while we operate? Where is the bigger picture? This is why the challenge is named HORAO, the Greek word for “seeing with the mind”.
But, this has nothing to do with supernatural powers or fortune telling. The HORAO Challenge aims to improve brain surgery with the help of a technology that visualizes brain fibers. The Challenge seeks an idea. We welcome entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, engineers, students, and anyone eager to contribute, to search for a solution. We believe that the solution is already out there and just needs to be found and implemented. If this project succeeds it will have the power to improve brain tumor survival in a population of millions of young patients with a devastating disease.
In order to make the HORAO Challenge possible, people around the world have contributed to one of the first successful neuroscience crowdfunding campaign: Their donation is your prize money!
The challenge is run by a group of inspired neurosurgeons at the Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, Switzerland in Europe.