Canadian researchers have made a pioneering medical breakthrough in increasing the accuracy and efficiency of brain surgery.

Researchers at the University of Calgary have developed the world's first MRI-compatible surgical robot. Called neuroArm, it was designed over the last six years by neurosurgeon Dr. Garnette Sutherland along with a team of Canadian researchers.

"Surgery with neuroArm should be more safe and more precise than surgery without neuroArm," Sutherland told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday.

The project began in 2002 when Calgary philanthropists the Seaman brothers (Doc, B.J. and Don) provided $2 million to begin planning Project neuroArm.

To develop the robot, the team used the same company that developed the Canadarm robots used on NASA space shuttles and the International Space Station.

The use of the $27-million neuroArm could potentially have a revolutionary effect on the accuracy of brain surgery.

"Many of our microsurgical techniques evolved in the 1960s, and have pushed surgeons to the limits of their precision, accuracy, dexterity and stamina," said Sutherland, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Calgary and the Calgary Health Region.

"NeuroArm dramatically enhances the spatial resolution at which surgeons operate, and provides the pathway towards shifting surgery from the organ to the cell level."

The surgical robot is operated by a surgeon from a computer console using controllers and real-time magnetic resonance imaging. While the robot uses interchangeable tools much like a human surgeon, the neuroArm system is much more accurate and precise, providing the capability to control to manipulate the tools at a microscopic scale.

"The best surgeons in the world can work within an eighth of an inch. NeuroArm makes it possible for surgeons to work accurately within the width of a hair," Doc Seaman said.

Sutherland said the neuroArm could also, in theory, lengthen a surgeon's working lifespan because the internal tremor for many people magnify as they age.

Surgeons are currently training on a simulator and anticipate they will operate on their first patient using the surgical robot in the summer. The new technology must first, however, be approved by Health Canada.