This Robot Could Prevent You From Ever Having To Get A Colonoscopy

Monday, April 24, 2017

This Robot Could Prevent You From Ever Having To Get A Colonoscopy


Biomedical technology has taken the next step toward simplifying the colonoscopy process, which is possibly the least-looked-forward-to medical procedure of all time. The current procedure requires the use of a small camera placed at the end of a flexible tube that is then inserted into a patient’s--body. 

A group of scientists have begun the work to minimize the procedure’s discomfort by creating a digestible snake-like robot that would move itself through the digestive system.

The robot, named SAW — single actuator wave-like robot — was built at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and is evolving into the foreseeable solution for visualizing the insides of both the small and large intestine.

Motion of the Wave

SAW is unlike most moving devices due to its dynamic movement. While most bots have wheels or legs to move, SAW moves using the wave-like motion of its body. This is possible, in part, due to the SAW’s calculate actuator travel life that enables it to move by pushing the area around it. Like a snake that slithers and writhes its body forward, SAW rotates its helix-like shape in a single direction that allows for movement through many interesting terrains.

The intestines are full of many strange, twisting directions that make it difficult for doctors to map patients’ intestines. Conventional medicine uses a swallowable pill-sized camera to help doctors inspect intestines. Unfortunately, this process comes with myriad flaws that make mapping the intestines difficult or impossible. Here are a few of them:

  • They require digestion. Since the pill cameras are swallowed, they follow the body’s natural digestion rate to pass. This means it could take 12 hours to see the insides of a patient.
  • They can be blocked. It isn’t uncommon for pill cameras to become stuck or blocked inside the intestine. When this happens, doctors and patients run the risk of having the pill camera lose its charge while getting passed.
  • They’re only visual. Camera pills can only examine the inside of a patient with a small camera. Ideally, doctors would like to take samples of anything they see in the body, but this isn’t possible — at least not yet.

Big Power in Small Sizes

Currently, the SAW is made of relatively small pieces of interlocking plastic provided by a 3D printer. At its current state, it’s too big to use. The dream of doctors using the SAW is to shrink it down enough to fit in the remarkably thin small intestine. This would give doctors a greater look at something that it’s tough to see — inside the digestive tract.

SAW Robot

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The future SAW wouldn’t be made of plastic but of simple biocompatible latex or a rubber substance that can withstand digestion while staying flexible.

The team of engineers and researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have a great deal of work to do before a useable SAW is released, but the dividends of the work would be well worth the trouble. With a small remote controlled device that would move through natural curves of the body, doctors could conceivably do much more than map internal organs.

Ideas like installing small scalpels to cut tissue samples or electric-cauterizing tools that could possibly stop internal bleeding have already been mentioned. With all the buzz the device is creating, many in the bioengineering world are excited to see where and when the device will become available for testing. The researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev are getting ready to begin testing on pigs, and, if the results are positive, medical technology will be much better for it.

By  Kayla MatthewsEmbed

Kayla Matthews writes about marketing innovation and business solutions for, Convince & Convert and WeWork. You can read more posts by Kayla on her blog, Productivity Theory.


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