Capsule Robot, A Better Bill to Swallow. Gursel Alici May 2015

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A robotic drug capsule could pave the way for pain-free detection and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases. A team of UOW researchers led by Professor Gursel Alici (pictured above), Head of the School of Mechanical, Materials and Mechatronic Engineering, is developing a capsule that can be magnetically “driven” through the body to examine a patient’s gastrointestinal tract and deliver drugs directly at the treatment site. This will allow physicians to screen and treat gastrointestinal tract diseases including internal bleeding, Crohn’s disease, small bowel tumours and coeliac disease. Current endoscopy procedures involve inserting a long flexible tube with a camera lens on one end into a patient’s body.
“These procedures are painful and cumbersome and the patient has to take special medication to clean the gastrointestinal tract,”
Professor Alici said. In some cases, mainly to pinpoint bleeding in hidden areas in the small bowel, a pill-like capsule is swallowed and it contains a small camera to capture images inside the body, which can be transferred wirelessly and in real-time to the physician to help with diagnosis. Though the endoscopic capsule used widely by physicians has a few major limitations: it relies on muscle contraction and expansion to travel through the body, much like a piece of food, and its direction can’t be controlled.

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