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Swallow your Surgeon in the future

Posted Jan 15 2009 11:03pm

This is still a bit away from coming to a hospital near you, but the technology would be to swallow the instrument doing the surgery, wild stuff!  We have all heard of the iPill and others that one swallows that takes pictures and relays data back, and there’s also one with a blue tooth chip as well, but this would be swallowing the instrument with little legs attached to move around and take care of business.

The patient would swallow a set of pills, each with their own function and assemble in the stomach.  Information can be communicated to a image computer and used as an indicator of the exact position and arrangement of the robot snake.  BD

Scientists from the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at ETH Zurich (IRIS) are developing tiny robot pills that will be swallowed and then perform surgical operations inside the body. These robot pills will be controlled from outside the body, which should make surgeries far less invasive, safer, faster, and more efficient. 

Seven years ago, pill shaped micro-cameras were first developed by the Israeli company Given Imaging and are now used successfully by physicians across the world to study the gastro-intestinal tract. However, these cameras are passive and do not effect their surroundings by releasing drugs or taking samples from areas that seem to require further investigation. For several years a European Union project called ARES (Assembling Reconfigurable Endoluminal Surgical System) is developing tiny robots with insect-like limbs that can be remotely controlled and will allow the robots to move around the stomach freely. Several research groups are exploring the use of such devices for gathering biopsy samples.

This should soon change, because the ARES scientists are currently developing micro-robots with controllable insect-like legs with which the “robot pills” would be able to move around in the stomach. Other groups are working on special devices for tissue biopsy. In the future, such instruments could be used to make a precise examination of damaged regions in the gastro-intestinal tract while at the same time taking tissue samples for subsequent investigation.

Swallow a Surgeon

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