Engineers at the University of Leeds, in England, have redesigned the traditional endoscope to be more affordable for use in countries where the cost of cancer screening equipment makes the tests cost prohibitive. Their design is not only less expensive, but more intuitive to the user. The part of the device that passes through the patient's gut is meant to be disposed of after use, so it does not need to be sterilized between uses. In places like China, where over one million people a year are diagnosed with gastric and esophageal cancers, the new affordable endoscope could have a major impact. Additional benefits include its smaller design eliminating the need for patients to be sedated, and being composed of silicone making it less likely to damage tissue.
“By radically re-thinking the way the device works, is manufactured and operated - we have come up with a solution that is a fraction of the cost of conventional endoscopes," says Pietro Valdastri, project lead and professor of robotics and autonomous systems at University of Leeds. “Based on the prototype, we estimate the device could be manufactured for around £40. Currently, conventional endoscopes cost roughly £80,000."
From the University of Leeds article: "Instead of a complex mechanical system of cables and cogs, the prototype is pneumatically operated. It is made up of the hand-held control column and a disposable section comprising a narrow silicone tube and a tiny capsule housing the camera – dubbed the pill camera because of its size, which the engineers are aiming to get down to 8mm. At the end of each procedure, the silicone tubing and camera housing are disposed of."
Read more about the low cost endoscope that is making cancer screenings more available at University of Leeds.