Engineers at the University of Leeds, in England, have developed a small robotic pill that can be guided through the colon as it takes micro-ultrasound images. The device is called Sonopill, and could one day replace painful and invasive endoscopic bowel examinations. The teams research was recently published in the journal Science Robotics.
“Previous studies showed that micro-ultrasound was able to capture high-resolution images and visualise small lesions in the superficial layers of the gut, providing valuable information about the early signs of disease," says senior author Professor Pietro Valdastri, Chair in Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the University of Leeds. "With this study, we show that intelligent magnetic manipulation is an effective technique to guide a micro-ultrasound capsule to perform targeted imaging deep inside the human body. The platform is able to localise the position of the Sonopill at any time and adjust the external driving magnet to perform a diagnostic scan while maintaining a high quality ultrasound signal. This discovery has the potential to enable painless diagnosis via a micro-ultrasound pill in the entire gastrointestinal tract.”
From the University of Leeds article: "The consortium has developed a technique called intelligent magnetic manipulation. Based on the principle that magnets can attract and repel one another, a series of magnets on a robotic arm that passes over the patient interacts with a magnet inside the capsule, gently manoeuvring it through the colon.
The magnetic forces used are harmless and can pass through human tissue, doing away with the need for a physical connection between the robotic arm and the capsule.
An artificial intelligence system (AI) ensures the smooth capsule can position itself correctly against the gut wall to get the best quality micro-ultrasound images. The feasibility study also showed should the capsule get dislodged, the AI system can navigate it back to the required location."
Read more about miniature robot that checks your colon for cancer at the University of Leeds.