|18 December 2015|

Cancers of the throat and gut will now be easier to detect thanks to a breakthrough by researchers at the University of Glasgow, who have discovered a way to make swallowable cameras more effective.

A welcome alternative to more intrusive methods, the tiny devices have been used instead of other options – including endescopes – in recent years.

Clinicians have been restricted though to basing their conclusions on what they can see using the spectrum of visible light, until now.

A paper published today in the journal Scientific Reports reveals that researchers from the university’s school of engineering have used fluorescent light for the first time to expand the diagnostic capabilities of the video-pill.

Research associate, Dr Mohammed Al-Rawhani said: “The system we’ve developed is small enough and power efficient enough to image the entire human gastrointestinal tract for up to 14 hours.

“We’ve confirmed in the lab the ability of the system to image fluorescence ‘phantoms’ – mixtures of flavins and haemoglobins which mimic closely how cancers are affected by fluorescence in parts of the body like the intestines, the bowel and the aesophagus.

“The system could also be used to help track antibodies used to label cancer in the human body, creating a new way to detect of cancer.

“It’s a valuable new technique which could help clinicians make fewer false positives and negatives in cancer diagnosis, which could lead to more effective treatment in the future.”

Project lead Professor David Cumming, the University of Glasgow’s chair of Electronic Systems, said: “We’ve played an important role in developing the technology behind video-pill systems, and this is an exciting new development, which offers a valuable new resource for gastrointestinal imaging.

“There’s still some way to go before it will be ready for commercial production and clinical use, but we’re in early talks with industry to bring a product to market. We’re also interested in expanding the imaging capabilities of video-pill systems to new areas such as ultrasound in the near future.”