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  • A Controllable Camera Pill
Jun 2008
SANKT INGBERT, Germany, June 16, 2008 -- Pills containing tiny cameras pass through the esophagus in as little three seconds, not long enough to provide useful data. But now researchers have devised a camera pill that can be stopped and steered where desired.

Camera pills swallowed by patients have been providing doctors with valuable images of the insides of intestines via an external receiver the patient wears on his or her belt. The device stores the data, later retrieved by physicians who analyze them for evidence of hemorrhages or cysts.

Because the camera produces two to four images per second, and it takes three or four seconds to pass through the esophagus, no usable images are created. Once it reaches the stomach, its small weight -- roughly 5 g -- causes it to drop very quickly to the lower wall of the stomach, again too fast to deliver usable images. Patients needing their esophagus or stomach examined are left having to swallow a relatively thick endoscope.
A new camera pill devised by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering and colleagues can be steered and stopped through the esophagus and stomach by doctors using a magnetic device. (Image copyright ©Fraunhofer)
Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT) in Sankt Ingbert have developed the first control system for the camera pill, in collaboration with engineers at Israelite Hospital in Hamburg, the Royal Imperial College in London and camera pill manufacturer Given Imaging in Yoqneam, Israel. Much like other camera pills, the IBMT device consists of a camera, a transmitter that sends images to the receiver, a battery and several cold-light diodes that briefly flash like a flashlight when a picture is taken. Where it differs is in its magnetic component.

"We have developed a magnetic device roughly the size of a bar of chocolate. The doctor can hold it in his hand during the examination and move it up and down the patient's body. The camera inside follows this motion precisely," said IBMT team leader Dr. Frank Volke.

"In future, doctors will be able to stop the camera in the esophagus, move it up and down and turn it, and thus adjust the angle of the camera as required," said Volke. "This allows them to make a precise examination of the junction between the esophagus and the stomach, for if the cardiac sphincter is not functioning properly, gastric acid comes up the esophagus and causes heartburn. In the long term, this may even cause cancer of the esophagus. Now, with the camera, we can even scan the stomach walls."

One prototype of the camera pill has already passed its first practical test in the human body: The researchers demonstrated in a self-experiment that the camera can be kept in the esophagus for about 10 minutes, even if the patient is sitting upright.

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A light-tight box that receives light from an object or scene and focuses it to form an image on a light-sensitive material or a detector. The camera generally contains a lens of variable aperture and a shutter of variable speed to precisely control the exposure. In an electronic imaging system, the camera does not use chemical means to store the image, but takes advantage of the sensitivity of various detectors to different bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. These sensors are transducers...
A medical instrument used to view inside the human body by inserting the instrument into a natural or created aperture. The endoscope may use a coherent fiber optic bundle or conventional optics to relay the image to the eye or a television camera. Illumination is provided by a concentric bundle of noncoherent fiber optics.  
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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