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Mini Robot to Detect Early Signs of Colon Cancer

Mini Robot to Detect Early Signs of Colon Cancer

Saturday, 22 June, 2019 - 06:15
FILE PHOTO: Cancer cells are seen on a large screen connected to a microscope at the CeBit computer fair in Hanover, Germany, March, 6, 2012. REUTERS
Cairo - Hazem Badr
An international research team has developed a capsule-like mini robot that can be guided inside the colon to take micro-ultrasound images.

According to the study published this week in the Science Robotics journal, the device could one day replace the need for patients to undergo an endoscopic examination, where a semi-rigid scope is passed into the bowel in an invasive procedure that can be painful. It also has the advantage of being better able to identify some types of cell change associated with cancer.

Previous studies showed that micro-ultrasound was able to capture high-resolution images and visualize small lesions in the superficial layers of the gut, providing valuable information about the early signs of disease. This encouraged British, US, and Canadian researchers to cooperate for years in searching for a suitable mechanism that allows recruiting this technique in diagnosing some colon diseases.

Known as a Sonopill, the capsule relies on what is called intelligent magnetic manipulation, which is an effective technique to guide a micro-ultrasound capsule to perform targeted imaging deep inside the human body.

Professor Pietro Valdastri, chair in Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the University of Leeds and senior author of the paper, said: "The technology is 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 maneuvering it through the colon."

The capsule has a diameter of 21mm and length of 39mm, and houses a micro ultrasound transducer, an LED light, camera and magnet. According to Valdastri, the engineers are trying to scale down the capsule.

"If we managed to use this technique in clinical trials on humans, we will enable painless diagnosis via a micro-ultrasound capsule, which can be retracted after the test via magnetic manipulation as well. This technique will help reduce deaths caused by diseases of the gastrointestinal tract," the study senior author said.

Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract account for approximately 8 million deaths a year across the world, including colon cancer.

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