TOKYO (Reuters) - A tiny, free-moving capsule camera with fins that can be gulped down and controlled remotely may one day make stomach exams much easier to handle.
Japanese scientists and medical researchers say they have successfully tried out what they believe to be the world's first free-moving, fin-equipped capsule camera small enough to be swallowed and swim through the human digestive tract.
"This shape had to be something that people can swallow, and thus move around freely inside the body and take a picture," said Kazuhide Higuchi at Osaka Medical College in western Japan, one of the lead researchers, to a local broadcaster.
Capsule cameras already exist but most are propelled through the stomach and intestine by peristalsis, the movement of muscles in the digestive tract, limiting their usefulness, said Higuchi and fellow researchers on their website.
But thanks to their efforts, and that of colleagues at Ryukoku University, a capsule has been given magnetic field-powered fins that help it swim around on remote control as it sends pictures back to the examining doctors.
The capsule also works the same way as suppositories for examinations of the large intestine, researchers said on their website. It leaves the body the same way.
"Even if you leave it inside the body after it finishes taking pictures of your stomach, it will probably just come out as stool," Higuchi added.
The camera is still in the prototype phase and researchers say it will take a few more years before it can be put to practical use.