Spider pill to seek out diseases

Oct 16, 2009 by Lin Edwards weblog
'Spider pill'. Image: BBC News

(PhysOrg.com) -- A remotely controlled 'spider pill' with eight moving legs and a miniature camera may become the next tool of choice in diagnosing cancers of the stomach and colon.

The little pill was invented by a group of scientists in Italy, who were looking for an alternative to endoprobes, which are not well accepted by patients.

The 'spider pill' would be swallowed by the patient and then controlled by the doctor, who would extend and activate the device's tiny legs by wireless radio, and make the gadget crawl around inside the patient's or intestines, rather like a spider. The spider pill can be manipulated to look for signs of disease and relay images from the camera to the doctor.

Swallowing a pill is much less invasive and uncomfortable for the patient than an endoscope, according to Italian cancer specialist Dr Enrico Grasso of the University Hospital Tor Vergata in Rome. Many patients find endoscopy so uncomfortable they refuse the treatment, even though it is extremely effective in diagnosing disease. With a simple pill to swallow, more people may be willing to be screened for cancer.

The spider pill would also help doctors, giving them much more flexibility than manipulating an endoprobe, which is a long tube rather resembling a snake. It can be made to walk back and forwards, and go anywhere the doctor wants to check. After the examination is finished, the spider pill legs are withdrawn and it is allowed to exit the body naturally.

The device has been tested in a pig, but further refinements are needed to make the pill smaller before it can be released for general use.

A pill containing a camera is not a new invention, but previous pills could not be controlled after being swallowed, except those that swim in liquid environments such as the stomach. A crawling spider pill that can be controlled remotely anywhere in the alimentary canal after being swallowed is a first.

More information: BBC News video

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

Explore further: US scientists make embryonic stem cells from adult skin

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Next: the pill bottle cap with a cell phone

Oct 07, 2009

(AP) -- IPhones aren't the only cutting-edge devices on AT&T Inc.'s wireless network. A startup is set to announce that it's making pill-bottle caps that use Ma Bell's network to remind you to take your medicine.

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.