Researchers: Next generation of virtual endoscopy swims along

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Tel Aviv University are pushing forward on efforts to create an MRI-guided capsule that provides images of the digestive tract, a breakthrough that could ease one of the biggest stressors associated with turning 50.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent statistics, 50 percent of Americans who should be screened for colon cancer do not undergo a colonoscopy.

The device would improve upon current capsule endoscopy technology, which is not effective in cancer screening because the tiny cameras only capture images at random intervals. Further, those images are not visible in real-time and patients often have to undergo a second procedure to confirm diagnosis.

The device would combine the control and real-time imaging of the endoscope with the safety and ease of a pill, according to researchers.

In a study published last fall, the researchers showed their capsule could "swim" through a tank of water. Now researchers say they've figured out how to steer it with wireless and MRI technologies. Tails made of copper coils and flexible polymer allow the capsules to swim with the magnetic current.

Moving forward, the researchers are hoping to further develop the capsule's endoscopic and signaling functions. There are a number of obstacles to overcome, from securing more funding, perhaps through a commercial partner, to further miniaturizing the device, which is currently too large for a patient to swallow, to conducting animal testing and trials.  

To learn more:
- read the Boston Globe article
- see the Biomedical Microdevices study
- learn more about virtual colonoscopies in this article

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