Light at the end of the gullet

Scientists in Israel have developed a tiny camera that can be placed inside a pill and used to provide footage of the inside of a patient’s alimentary canal.

Given Imaging claims that its `M2A’ capsule will `painlessly yield the most accurate and detailed pictures of the intestine available’.

The innovation is expected to replace traditional processes like endoscopy, which, as well as being painful, leave the lower area of the gut detectable only to x-rays taken after a barium meal.

Equipped with a camera, white-light-emitting diodes to illuminate the intestine, tiny transmitters and power cells, the product is swallowed like a pill and can record up to 6 hours of video whilst the natural motion of the gut aids it on its journey.

Images are captured onto a computer chip by a miniature Photobit Corp CMOS image sensor developed that has ultra-low power requirements (less than 3 milliwatts).

After swallowing the capsule, an antenna array is attached to the patient. A wireless recorder, worn around the waist, records the signals transmitted by the capsule to the array. A computer, equipped with proprietary software then processes the data and produces a video clip of the images transmitted by the sensor.

Unlike endoscopy, the system requires no hospitalisation. Patients can take the capsule in the morning, go off to work, and the recorded journey can be fast-forwarded by the physician, who can make an analysis within minutes.

After successful tests on over 20 volunteers, Given intends to sell the pill all over the world as soon as regulatory approval is received.

In a similar move, NASA has signed an MOU with the National Cancer Institute to develop capsules that contain microscopic sensors to diagnose and treat disease on Earth and in space.

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