Could these video pills effectively detect the presence of throat and gut cancers?

A team of researchers from the University of Glasgow School of Engineering started exploring the use of swallowable cameras as a clinical tool for this purpose, as well as an alternative to more intrusive imaging techniques such as endoscopes.

These tiny sensing systems work by lighting up the patient’s internal parts using a tiny light source, narrowing down clinical conclusions based on what is viewable in the visible light spectrum.

For the first time, fluorescent light was utilized for expanding the ability of the video pill for medical diagnosis. This kind of imaging is already a potent diagnostic tool that identifies blood supplies supporting cancer in patients, but existing technologies are bulky, costly, and consume significant power that confines them to labs and hospital settings.

The research team led by professor David Cumming, Electronic Systems chair at the university, used an advanced semiconductor single-pixel imaging method to create fluorescence imaging in a small, swallowable pill.

“The system we’ve developed is small enough and power efficient enough to image the entire human gastrointestinal tract for up to 14 hours,” said research associate Dr. Mohammed Al-Rawhani.

According to the team, they confirmed the method’s ability to image “phantoms” of fluorescence, which are a mix of flavins and hemoglobins that mimic how fluorescence affects cancers such as in the esophagus, intestines and the bowel.

The new video pill creates a new mechanism for cancer detection through which the system tracks antibodies used to determine cancer in the body.

Dr. Al-Rawhani dubbed it an important new technique to assist clinicians in making fewer false positives and negatives and diagnosing cancer, possibly leading to better treatments.

Professor Cumming also said they are already in early discussions with industry entities to produce the tool, and are keen to expand the video pill’s capability in ultrasound and other areas in the future.

The study was published Dec. 18 in the journal Scientific Reports.

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