Cancer-imaging video pill provides its own fluorescent light

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The team developed a video pill capable of emitting fluorescent light, significantly improving diagnostic capabilities over visible light devices(Credit: University of Glasgow)

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A team of University of Glasgow researchers has worked to improve the imaging provided by swallowable cameras used to detect cancers in the throat and gut. The new video pills are able to emit fluorescent light, allowing the researchers to better analyze the returned imagery.

Embedding sensor systems into pills small enough to swallow is nothing new. Studies were looking into the idea back in 2011, and such a device received FDA approval back in 2014. Now, a University of Glasgow study is looking to improve the technology, working to produce a system with the ability to emit fluorescent light.

Current solutions rely on illuminating patients' insides with visible light, leaving doctors to use their own judgement when analyzing what it is they're seeing. Working to improve the capabilities of the method, the team made use of an advanced semiconductor single-pixel imaging technique, squeezing flourescent light tech into a tiny pill that's able to stay in the gastrointestinal tract for up to 14 hours.

Using fluorescent light makes spotting cancer much easier, as it's capable of clearly identifying rich blood supplies that support tumor growth – features that are easily missed when examining a patient using visible light. It could also be used to track cancer-associated antibodies in patients' systems, further improving detection accuracy.

Early testing has been positive, with the team confirming that the pill works as intended. The team plans to continue development, and will look into integrating additional technologies to further improve the effectiveness of the device.

"There's still some way to go before it will be ready for commercial and clinical use, but we're in early talks with industry to bring a product to market," said the University of Glasgow's Professor David Cumming. "We're also interested in expanding the imaging capabilities of the video pill systems to new areas such as ultrasound in the near future."

The researchers published a paper on their work in the journal Scientific Reports.

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