Robotic Capsule Inspects Colons for Cancer

June 21, 2019 By IdeaConnection

Robotic CapsulesScientists in the UK and the US are developing a robotic capsule that is able to inspect colons for cancer.

If their work is successful the so-called Sonopill could become a viable alternative for sometimes painful and uncomfortable colonoscopies.

Researchers from Leeds, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt and Dundee Universities, alongside Vanderbilt University in the US have been describing their work in the journal Science Robotics.


The system involves a robotic arm equipped with magnets that passes over a patient to guide a tiny robotic capsule through the colon. As it moves through the large organ it takes micro-ultrasound images of the gut allowing doctors to tell immediately if there are any malignant tissues present.

A small flexible cable that sends ultrasound images back to a computer is attached to the capsule and both pass into the body via the rectum.

“We are trying to create a system that could replace colonoscopy with a painless alternative,” said Pietro Valdastri, chair in robotics and autonomous systems at Leeds University. “Instead of pushing a stiff tube from the back, we are pulling this capsule with magnetic fields from the front.”

An artificial intelligence system ensures the capsule positions itself against the gut wall allowing it to take the best quality images. If it should somehow get dislodged AI can navigate the device back to its correct place.

Human Trials

The team behind the robotic capsule are hoping to start human trials in September 2020.

For more information about their work reed Intelligent magnetic manipulation for gastrointestinal ultrasound in Science Robotics.

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