AI-guided robotic device replaces endoscopy in diagnosing colon cancer

A miniature robot that can be magnetically guided through a patient's colon using an automated arm could eventually replace invasive and often painful endoscopic examinations to diagnose colon cancer, according to a study published June 19 in Science Robotics.

In the study, scientists used intelligent magnetic manipulation to guide the Sonopill through laboratory models and in animal studies involving pigs. The tiny Sonopill capsule contains a magnet, LED light, micro-ultrasound transducer and camera so it can capture ultrasound images from inside the gastrointestinal tract, sent to a computer in the exam room through a small, flexible cable.

Researchers found that the artificial intelligence system not only expertly guided the Sonopill through the body and kept it in the correct position to capture ultrasound images, but was also able to navigate the device back to the required location if it veered off course.

"With an increasing demand for endoscopies, it is more important than ever to be able to deliver a precise, targeted and cost-effective treatment that is comfortable for patients," said lead researcher Sandy Cochran, PhD, professor of ultrasound materials and systems at the University of Glasgow in the U.K. "We hope that in the near future, the Sonopill will be available to all patients as part of regular medical check-ups, effectively catching serious diseases at an early stage and monitoring the health of everyone's digestive system."

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