What if doctors could diagnose you by moving a tiny pill camera submarine around inside your body?
No, it's not science fiction: researchers at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have developed a pill camera that doctors can actually steer through your digestive system.
Pill cameras (known to doctors as capsule endoscopes) have been around for a few years, but most early versions either fell haphazardly through the body or had to be controlled with an invasive tether.
The new device relies on an ingenious little motor that can be controlled magnetically in an MRI machine. It's completely wireless, so once it's in your body you can forget about it.
The researchers haven't yet tested it in a human body, but the hardest part was getting the motor right; the video below shows the device making its way through a tank of water, and there's no reason it shouldn't be able to do the same thing inside us.
What will the little submarine capture? All sorts of conditions can be discovered with an endoscope pill, including colon cancer and Crohn's disease.
The video it feeds back to doctors is fascinating and useful as well. The footage below (warning: gross) comes from a capsule endoscopy using an older technology; the new version will be able to observe even more carefully:
The device will be used for more than just documentary work -- it's still a pill, remember. Noby Hata, a researcher in the Department of Radiology at BWH and leader of the development team for the endoscopic capsule, said: "Ideally, in the future we would be able to utilize this technology deliver drugs or other treatments, such as laser surgery, directly to tumors or injuries within the digestive track."
In other words, there are no plans to shrink any humans and send them in with it; but we can dream, right?
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