What once seemed like science-fiction now seems within reach. Notwithstanding the fact that humans still can’t be shrunk down to a size small enough to captain a vessel small enough to pilot through the human body, researches have come up with something close. Called innocuously enough, an endoscope capsule, the tiny device is basically a small wireless camera onboard a tiny capsule that can be controlled via magnetism from an MRI machine; and can sail around inside a living person. The brainchild of Dr. Gabor Kosa, of Israel’s TAU School of Engineering, and as reported in Science Daily, the capsule is driven by a small tail that vibrates in response to magnetic energy.
The whole idea is to replace the standard endoscope (small camera on a tube that is used to perform exploratory and arthroscopic surgery) because of its intrusiveness in simple reconnaissance procedures. While a far better option than open surgery, the endoscope nonetheless does cause damage when it’s pushed and pulled through the body as a surgeon tries to get it to the right place to find out what is going on with a certain body part to see if surgery is needed. It’s also somewhat bulky. To get around all that, Dr. Kosa built a very tiny submarine that has nothing onboard save a very tiny camera, a small headlight and circuitry for broadcasting the signal though the tissue and skin to an external device that can capture the video feed and display it on a computer screen. To provide power to move the capsule (and power the camera and light) and to steer it, a regular MRI machine is used. It does so by sending very precisely guided streams of magnetic energy to just the tail part of the capsule, causing it to vibrate, which propels the entire capsule through the body as the beam is moved. The beam from the MRI is so precise that it can be used as a steerage mechanism as well.
Using such a capsule, physicians can take a trip around a portion of the body that is causing its owner problems, without having to cause additional damage as occurs with a traditional endoscope. It’s possible the new capsule could also be used in conjunction with an endoscope during actual surgical procedures to provide the surgeon with more than one view of what is going on while he or she operates.
The new device will have to pass a lot of tests before it can become a new tool used by doctors, of course, but thus far, it appears that won’t take long as there doesn’t appear to be any downside. And for those worried about the effects of the MRI, it would be minimal because it would operate at just a fraction of its normal strength, which should mean, it wouldn’t cause any unpleasant side effects.