Probing colons has never been this much fun. Japanese researchers have developed the world’s first self-propelled endoscopy device, a remote controlled tadpole-like camera that can “swim” through the digestive tack gathering imagery along the way.
This kind of endoscopy isn’t wholly new, of course, but previous iterations of ingestible cameras relied on natural muscle contractions to move them through the body. The “Mermaid,” as it is known, simplifies the process by moving quickly through the digestive tract to its destination, whatever that point may be. To speed the process, it can be inserted into the digestive system at either end, entering the body orally or–well, you know.
The device is just 0.4 inches in diameter and just shy of two inches long, and uses magnetic machinery to control its movement and location. Doctors pilot the endoscope with a joystick, watching its progress on a monitor. All said, it takes only a few hours to traverse the whole system from esophagus to colon. It could help ease the strain on patients and detect hard-to-see cancers earlier than was previously possible.