Swimming pill: a new way to save lives?

New research aims to give doctors a unique view inside the human body using a remote-controlled capsule.

In today's Medical Moment, we know how that capsule could find a problem and treat it.

A miniaturized doctor and his team swim through a human body to save a life in the sci-fi classic Fantastic Voyage. Decades later, a new swimming pill could give doctors a new way to save lives.

"This capsule can stop or move or aim at the disease lesions so you can actually try to cure the lesion,” said Noby Hata, developer of swimming endoscopic capsule.

The capsule is designed to be swallowed like a pill. Doctors will be able to control the camera magnetically from outside using an MRI machine's magnetic signals.

"This is the coil to induce the current remotely,” said Hata.

Co-inventor of the capsule, Hata says the MRI works much like a GPS.

"You will see the cross section of the body and also the little capsule in the middle and you can navigate this capsule using this map as guidance,” he said.

So far, he's successfully tested a prototype of the capsule in a fish tank inside an m-r-i machine. The goal is to one day be able to deliver drugs or laser treatments directly to tumors or injuries in the digestive track.

An idea that Dr. Kunal Jajoo of Brigham and Women’s Hospital believes could change the way colonoscopies are performed.

"It's an amazing advance to be able to steer something that small within the body and really direct it to areas that might need therapy or biopsy or the like,” said Dr. Jajoo

Bringing what was once thought to be sci-fi closer to reality.

The inventor of the capsule says since MRI machines are already in place in hospitals all over the country. Once the swimming capsule is produced, it can be easily distributed without a great deal of expense.


BACKGROUND: At least 50% of the Western population develops a colorectal tumor by age of 70. In 10% of these individuals, the tumor progresses to malignancy. In adults, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer that causes death worldwide. According to recent published reports in the New England Journal of Medicine, colonoscopies have helped cut the death rate from colon cancer in half. (Source: Medscape.com, The New England Journal of medicine)

LOOK FOR POLYPS: A colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine (rectum and colon). The doctor uses a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope to look at the colon. A colonoscopy helps find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding. During a colonoscopy, tissue samples can be collected (biopsy) and abnormal growths can be taken out. Colonoscopy can also be used as a screening test to check for cancer or precancerous growths in the colon or rectum (polyps). ( Source: WebMD)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital are now developing a "swimming capsule'' that they hope will combine the best of both approaches: the control of the endoscope with the safety and ease of a pill. Doctor Kunal Jajoo believes that new technology could change the way colonoscopies are done. "This swimming capsule could possibly be able to steer a capsule through the body with a MRI," Dr. Kunal Jajoo, from Brigham and Women's Hospital and an Associate Physician in the Department of Medicine, told Ivanhoe. In a paper published in the journal Biomedical Microdevices, they showed they could "swim'' their capsule through a tank of water, powered by a conventional MRI machine.
The swimming capsule could also make colon cancer screenings more accurate. Today's capsule endoscopes - tiny cameras encased in plastic - can't be used for cancer screening because they take pictures at random intervals and so only catch cancers by chance or if the tumor is extremely large. The images can be seen only later, once the capsule has sent them wirelessly to a data recorder worn on the patient's belt, so a second procedure is often needed to confirm a diagnosis. Capsule endoscopes are naturally excreted and painless. The goal of this new pill will be to find a way to deliver images in real time, allowing doctors to identify and explore areas of concern with one procedure. "Anything that can increase the likelihood of someone getting a screening colonoscopy can save lives and prevent colon cancer," Dr. Jajoo told Ivanhoe.
( Source: Interview with Ivanhoe Broadcast News, The Boston Globe)


Noby Hata
Brigham and Women's Hospital
(617) 525-8596

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