Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, September 22, 2008

Building a Self-Assembling Stomach-Bot

Technology Review - September 22, 2008 by Kristina Grifantini

Modules that self-assemble inside the stomach could perform more-sophisticated diagnosis and treatment.

Doctors have long sought better ways to examine the workings of the human body without having to cut their patients open. A swallowable camera, little bigger than a normal pill, can already snap pictures as it floats through the stomach and intestine, offering a less invasive way to perform diagnosis than an endoscope or surgery. Now a consortium of European researchers is testing a way to connect several swallowable devices to create a surgical "robot" that would self-assemble inside the stomach.

The Israeli company that developed the first pill cameras, Given Imaging, is currently working on a way to control the movement of its camera capsule from outside the body. Several academic research groups are also looking at ways to let swallowable capsules maneuver themselves by rolling, crawling, or sticking to tissue. With greater control, doctors should be able to better diagnose and possibly even treat illness. But the capabilities of such intestinal devices will still be limited because a capsule must remain small enough to be comfortably swallowed.

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