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MRI Powered Pill-Sized Robot Swims Through Intestines

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the fantastic-voyage dept.

Medicine 98

kkleiner writes "Researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel and Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston have collaborated to create a robot that can swim through the intestines. The size of a large pill, the 'microswimmer' is powered by the strong magnetic fields generated by an MRI machine. A tail measuring 20mm x 5mm made of copper and flexible polymer vibrates due to the magnets and propels the little microrobot through the gut."

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TSA (5, Funny)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709526)

In other news, the TSA has announced a new screening process involving rubber gloves and an intestinal robot. Americans should be very familiar with the procedure, as one merely has to bend over and take it.

Re:TSA (2)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709808)

They'll do anything to find the newest threat - CUPCAKES!

Re:TSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710528)

Those cupcakes can have explosive frosting don't you know - might even start a fire.

What we need is a $16 muffin.

Re:TSA (1)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 2 years ago | (#38720064)

Now that TSA ad I saw makes sense:

"Have you ever wanted to be a drone pilot? Now you can. Well, it's not exactly a drone. And you'll be flying through exotic territory. But if you ever wanted to serve your country and explore new intestines, this is your chance. Apply now for the TSA Colon Drone Pilot School and qualify for your federal license to fly through Fecalspace. Experience the excitement of ground control telling you there's a big turd at 6 o'clock! Fire high-explosive missiles to break up constipation! Look for terrorists hiding in very unlikely places! Apply now! Operators are standing by."

Excitement! Explosives! Minimum wage!

Re:TSA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710192)

Hey it's from Tel Aviv. Jews! JEWS!!

How was copper wiring invented? Two Jews fighting over a penny.

What do you call a gay Jew? He-blew.

Why do Jews have such big noses? Because air is free.

Did you hear about the new Jewish car? Yeah, not only does it stop on a dime it also picks it up!

Re:TSA (2)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710240)

Good news! It's a suppository!

Re:TSA (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#38713522)

Good news! It's a suppository!

Its a transformer.

That's nothing... (2)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710246)

The TSA is drawing from the knowledge gained by the Navy with their trained dolphin program [wikipedia.org] , and starting up their own trained tapeworm program for the traveler's enjoyment.

Re:TSA (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#38711460)

That's not a robot...unless you consider the TSA agent a robot because his supervisor is giving him directions as to how to fist your anus.

Re:TSA (1)

lewko (195646) | more than 2 years ago | (#38712442)

When people said the TSA should copy Israel, this probably isn't what they meant...

Re:TSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38714712)

How many of those robots are there? 4 million at a time?

The matrix has me (0)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709556)

Okay, so... going against every warning label on the side of an MRI machine, we're going to stick something that is metallic, magnetized, and decently sized... and put it in a person, and then put that person in the machine?

Er, ok.

Re:The matrix has me (4, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709596)

I'm no MRI tech, but the hope is that there would be a low-power non-diagnostic routine to accommodate the little swimmer. The technology is only hype anyway, the article states that they tested it in a fish tank and haven't even tested it in a human. I doubt they'll have much success with it meandering successfully through the gut, and of course it will stop dead in its tracks when it hits that big wall of shit*.

*People who are active tend to defecate only once a day, with either hard pellets or spectacular stool length and thickness depending on how much fiber and coffee they consume.

Re:The matrix has me (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709698)

The article suggests that in a 3T machine it could move at several millimetres per minute, and 3T machines are some of the strongest devices typically installed in hospitals for human use (although there are research machines that have much stronger fields).

It's not going to fly towards the magnet at any rate.

CORRECTION (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709708)

I type millimetres per minute and meant to put millimetres per second in the above comment.

You're A Stupidass Dumb Fuckin Idiot! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710790)

Try proofreading. Dumbass.

Re:The matrix has me (3, Informative)

danlip (737336) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709884)

I think that is already a solved problem for colonoscopies - 24 hours of nothing but clear liquids and jello plus aggressive laxatives, clears you right out.

Re:The matrix has me (5, Informative)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710032)

I think that is already a solved problem for colonoscopies - 24 hours of nothing but clear liquids and jello plus aggressive laxatives, clears you right out.

According to my butt doctor, I was "squeaky clean" when I had my colonoscopy. The previous day and a half was unpleasant, but I am grateful I went through with it.

The weirdest part of having 100% empty intestines was my lack of hunger. I had zero food or "processed food" in my guts, but I felt content like I had just eaten a decent meal but was not stuffed. Then, when I ate my first meal, I was extremely hungry despite having just eaten.

Re:The matrix has me (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710234)

Yup. I find that, when I don't eat for a little while, my mind is clear. I have more energy, and I don't feel like a leaky barge with a faulty bilge pump.

Re:The matrix has me (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38711700)

When I'm ill I tend not to eat for a day or two, and as I'm just starting to recover I get a similar sensation. Not quite a high, but almost. A sort of enhanced perception.

Religious fasting is quite widespread. I wonder if there's some connection?

Re:The matrix has me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710366)

Grateful that you went through an invasive unnecessary procedure?

You must be real SMRT!

Re:The matrix has me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710506)

Ummm... colonoscopies are not "unnecessary"; they are an effective way of preventing cancer, at least in people with a family history.

Re:The matrix has me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710904)

...an effective way of screening for cancer...

ftfy

Re:The matrix has me (1)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 2 years ago | (#38711052)

Grateful that you went through an invasive unnecessary procedure?

My family has a history of gastrointestinal disease, and I had symptoms. Hardly "unnecessary" in my case. I am grateful to have a skilled M.D. in charge of the procedure who made an accurate diagnosis (no serious problems, eat more fiber). While I may disagree with the insurance/billing side of this, the medical side was 100% spot on and I am grateful to everyone involved.

Re:The matrix has me (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710324)

Most of the cost of an MRI is in making the magnetic fields precise enough to be used for imaging. Take away that requirement and I reckon you take away 90% of the price. Whats left is a powerful, controlable magnetic field generator.

You could have all sorts of fun with that.

Re:The matrix has me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38718120)

You could have all sorts of fun with that.

Religious visions, here we come!

Re:The matrix has me (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710336)

I'm no MRI tech, but the hope is that there would be a low-power non-diagnostic routine to accommodate the little swimmer.

No, there's no way to change the field strength in a MRI scanner. The field strength remains constant until the helium is quenched from the scanner (intentionally or accidentally). What is varied is different aspects of the RF pulse used to disrupt the magnetic field and measure the effect on the patient. But the RF is most likely not used in this case.

Re:The matrix has me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710526)

Actually there are two sets of magnetic fields involved, the second of which is designed to allow changing the field strength and position.

Re:The matrix has me (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | more than 2 years ago | (#38713616)

No, not really. The field strength stays constant. Most diagnostic MRI scanners are 1.5 or 3 Tesla. Though there are 1.2T and lower open magnets and there are some 7T experimental magnets. The field causes the protons in H2O molecules to align in a specific way. A radio frequency (RF) pulse is used to disrupt this field and caused the protons alignment to change. This RF pulse is at a specific resonance frequency with the magnetic field and is tuned to the specific field strength of the scanner. Higher field magnets require higher frequency RF and will warm (cook) the patient faster. This RF pulse does cause a variance to the effect of the magnetic field on the protons. different sequences are used to measure how the protons behave when the RF is shut off and the protons relax. This is, of course an over simplification, but the point is, is that the RF pulse (which technically could be called a magnetic field) is the second field you are referring to. The overall field strength of the scanner is never changed unless there is a problem. I've seen scanners that were in use for 20+ years. Unless it's ramped down, that magnetic field is constant all of the time. If it varied, then it wouldn't be much use.

Re:The matrix has me (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38712436)

*People who are active tend to defecate only once a day, with either hard pellets or spectacular stool length and thickness depending on how much fiber and coffee they consume.

I did such an amazingly large shit once. It refused to flush, and when it did it crept back round the u-bend a few minutes later.
We called it Nessie. Eventually we had to chop it up with a loo brush.

Re:The matrix has me (1)

RascalFoxx (2510502) | more than 2 years ago | (#38722072)

not true about active people and defecation. :P

Re:The matrix has me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38709610)

Clearly no one has thought of that but you.

Re:The matrix has me (3, Interesting)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709640)

Okay, so... going against every warning label on the side of an MRI machine, we're going to stick something that is metallic, magnetized, and decently sized... and put it in a person, and then put that person in the machine?

Er, ok.

The summery stated it was copper, not iron. Aluminum is commonly used for MRI safe equipment all the time. There is copper in the coils already anyhow. As long as it's nonferrous it should be fine. My question is, how long does this procedure take? MRI time is expensive, and using it mainly as a power source will have accountants heads exploding. Unless they plan to do this at night during off peak, or times when the magnet is unused. That would make perfect sense as you are paying to keep the scanner cool 24/7 anyhow.

Re:The matrix has me (1)

DeadCatX2 (950953) | more than 2 years ago | (#38714726)

I'm not sure peak/offpeak hours really matter all that much. The magnet is always on, even if it's not making any sound (the gradient coils). That's why MR techs always do "the macarena" to make sure they don't have any metal before going in, even when it's quiet.

You probably wouldn't even need the gradient coils to be active for this.

Re:The matrix has me (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | more than 2 years ago | (#38715156)

I'm not sure peak/offpeak hours really matter all that much. The magnet is always on, even if it's not making any sound (the gradient coils). That's why MR techs always do "the macarena" to make sure they don't have any metal before going in, even when it's quiet.

You probably wouldn't even need the gradient coils to be active for this.

Of course it matters. during peak hours the scanner is making money by scanning for billable procedures. It is also costing you money to have the techs present as they need to be paid. Yes the magnet is always on, that's why I said you are paying to keep it cool. The He needs to be kept cold enough to be a super conductor 24/7. I would also guess that running the gradients would be undesirable for this.

Re:The matrix has me (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709686)

Copper not going to fly towards the magnet like a ferromagnetic object would.

Re:The matrix has me (5, Informative)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709848)

Having had to design surgical instruments to operate in in MRI imaging field (not just the magnetic field, but in the patient during a scan), I can answer this.

The warning on the machine is overly cautious. Almost any material can be put in in MRI, but should be tested. 99% would probably fail (and 99% of those can be predicted to fail). And who wants to test every friggin' thing someone wants to bring into an MRI room. Best just to say "NONE!"

But for stuff designed for the MRI, it's a different story.

There are 2 levels of compatibility: MRI safe and MRI compatible.

MRI safe means it won't hurt anyone. Don't use large pieces of ferro or paramagnetic materials, or the magnet will apply significant force. In other words, just don't use steel (plus a few other exotic alloys). And don't use long, thing wires, or you can create some induction heating from the radio waves (the R stands for resonance ... radio frequency resonance).

MRI compatible means that the material won't disrupt the imaging field. Either by warping the magnetic field, messing with the radio waves, or creating discontinuities (the FFT algorithms create artifacts from abrupt hydrogen density changes. Air/interface is enough sometimes).

Turns out polymers are ideal, followed by ceramics. But a small group of diamagnetic metals work pretty well too (but still have dimension and geometry constraints). Gold, silver, lead, and copper work great. BeCu alloys can be used and replace steel.

A small item (20 mm x 5 mm dia) made of copper should be MRI safe. MRI compatible is something that has to be tested, but copper/polymer objects might not screw with the image too badly if designed well. And it makes great sense to tap the radio field for a little bit of power.

Re:The matrix has me (1)

SplashMyBandit (1543257) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710142)

Totally off-topic, and it's just a part of your job I suppose, but thanks for making stuff that helps people in such a direct way.

Re:The matrix has me (1)

bytemeister (136139) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710494)

Great answer & explanation!!!

Thanks for making my world a bit easier to understand.

Way to go - thanks again jbeaupre (752124)!!!!!

Re:The matrix has me (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38712576)

It sounds like this thing is using the gradients to move, and if it does that (or uses the RF) it's very unlikely it won't create an artifact. If you're going to use a field for locomotion you're going to have to distort that field locally, and that will cause a susceptibility artifact.

Re:The matrix has me (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38713582)

Agreed. It's going to be pretty tough to avoid some sort of artifact near the probe. But it sounds like they are doing a visual inspection with the robot, using the MRI for motion and navigation.

Overall, a pretty clever idea. Future versions are bound to be even better.

Re:The matrix has me (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38713738)

I downloaded the paper... looks like they are harvesting energy from the rf, then creating current in coils to push against the main field. It does produce a healthy artifact. They claim it's MR compatible... perhaps it is in the gut. In the brain it would be a pretty serious artifact. It does make it easy to locate though.

It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure how practical it is. They haven't tried it in an actual intestine yet, and even if it does work, it has to compete against simpler techniques that don't require an MRI.

Re:The matrix has me (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709956)

I don't know about you, but the last time I tried to pick up copper with a magnet I failed. I am assuming they use the magnetic field to generate a current to move the tail.

Re:The matrix has me (1)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710096)

That's what I though too when I saw this. The object is basically a bullet. Software crashes and the things decides to go in a straight line to it's home position, you might have a problem.

Re:The matrix has me (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710294)

Its a pretty amazing idea. How about inserting a pill with a blade on the front and setting it loose on tumors? Its a creepy idea but dying of cancer is worse.

Important for some of us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38709586)

This is an important advance for those of us that, alas, need endoscopic views.

Having had way more than my share of cat scans in the past year (not to mention a Whipple procedure and an intubation of my common bile duct), I hope that the descendents of this device will help prevent some of you from sharing my surgical adventures.

Re:Important for some of us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38709712)

Honestly, endoscopy isn't that big of a deal, I had them go damn near all the way through me with one and it's not that big of a deal. A bit of medicine to numb the back of the tongue and there's no reason to bother with general anesthesia.

Crohns Disease (4, Interesting)

wjcofkc (964165) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709598)

As someone with a rather severe form of Crohns Disease, this is a godsend (and I'm saying that as an atheist!). I can assure you that anyone with a similarly debilitating intestinal disorder that inevitably leads to cancer feels the same for reasons I will spare you.

The many "score whatever funnies" that will certainly follow this story will be shamefully ignorant.

Re:Crohns Disease (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38709734)

ditto, nothing worse than an inconclusive endoscopy. As this thing can probably get places semi-flexible tubes can't, I'll call it a win.

Re:Crohns Disease (5, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709898)

I'm not exactly going to call this a "win".

Let me explain....

Being older, I had my first colonoscopy this last year. Not eating for a whole day sucked. Drinking the laxative (understatement; it creates an ass volcano of shit), was far worse, but none of the paperwork prepared me for the hospital.

I was checked in and then wheeled into a "room". Those semi-flexible tubes you refer to look like Borg conduit tubing 3 meters long. Hung up on the wall like tools in a workshop by the dozens. Huge interconnects at either end. I swear I though David Copperfield was going to assist because I don't know how they were going to make those fucking tubes disappear if you know what I mean.

The anesthesiologist gave me a choice. One of them was full knockout. I asked him if he thought I wanted to remember "that" and pointed to the wall. He understood and gave me something that made me not remember anything. Should of given me that before I saw the room.

All of that being said......

This is a pill being shoved up your ass guided by a magnet machine built by companies that have huge insurance premiums and instances of technicians screwing up. How many things could possibly be wrong with that picture?

I honestly don't which is worse. Scary Borg conduit tubing or robot pill being shoved in your ass controlled by "interesting" and error prone methods.

Either way, you're getting something shoved up your ass.

It's not a "win".

Re:Crohns Disease (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38709998)

Quit whining. Thirty years ago you would have been down for a week. I had a colonoscopy and other than the not eating and the being on the shitter for a couple hours beforehand with the volcano shits, there wasn't much to it.

Quit being a pussy and realize what has to happen to you and how much better it is now.

Re:Crohns Disease (3)

cdrpsab (615637) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710018)

RTFA, you swallow it.

Re:Crohns Disease (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710052)

WTF? I've had colitis and had colonoscopies every 6 months. I never needed any kind of sedation and I usually looked at the screen myself fairly interested, because I could see in my own eyes if the illness has spread or if inflammation was gone. There's practically no pain from the procedure if you just relax. Later I was actually diagnosed with colon cancer and had the whole colon removed by surgery. I still have something called sigmoidoscopies every 6 months where they check the pouch they created out of the sigmoid to store my crap.

The only thing bad about a colonoscopy is the prep where you have to drink that annoying liquid and shit like there's no tomorrow. Even that's pretty mild. Just wait til they put a tube down your throat to look at your gut. That's a totally different story and you'll definitely need to put under.

Re:Crohns Disease (1)

SplashMyBandit (1543257) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710168)

> There's practically no pain from the procedure if you just relax
Or were the original author of goatse (sorry, I couldn't resist, this is /. after all - and sorry to hear about your medical troubles).
I hope the procedure was successful - for my part I've just been part of a project developing software to manage the records for a bowel cancer programme in my country, the intent is to can get the slow-growing bowel cancer early. I hope the screening system works (I know our software does :) ).

Re:Crohns Disease (1)

witherstaff (713820) | more than 2 years ago | (#38711200)

Katie Curic had a colonoscopy on live TV, it can't be that bad.

Re:Crohns Disease (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38712820)

That's because she works in TV News and made it to the top of her profession doing exactly that.

Re:Crohns Disease (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710102)

The most terrifying thing must be knowing (or not knowing) when the shit volcano is finally over.

Re:Crohns Disease (3, Funny)

SplashMyBandit (1543257) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710176)

> The most terrifying thing must be knowing (or not knowing) when the shit volcano is finally over.
Would that be Krapatoa ?

Re:Crohns Disease (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38714882)

Shit volcanoes are one thing, but one time I caught some flu-like virus and had aerosol diarrhea. I had to center and level my ass carefully to avoid getting any on the upper rim of the toilet bowl, the spray was that wide. My "gentleman vegetables" were barely out of the line of fire.

Re:Crohns Disease (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710144)

it creates an ass volcano of shit

Are you in Iceland?

Re:Crohns Disease (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38711788)

I had a colonoscopy with minimal anesthesia and watched the process on the monitor for a bit. Interesting, and NO PROBLEM.

Neither was not eating for a day, or dealing with the laxative.

Other people reading your post should know there is an alternative, non-crybaby view of the procedure!

I'd rather have periodic colonoscopy checks than unchecked colon cancer.

"Scary Borg conduit tubing"...
The problem was that you find such things "scary". That's YOU, not the equipment. There is no necessity to be afraid of technology.

Re:Crohns Disease (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#38721012)

LOL.

It's not that I find the equipment scary, it's that I find what and where the equipment is going to be inserted scary. Those things were huge dude. Even the most enthusiastic of homosexuals would probably say, "Oh sweety, I don't think I can do that".

Some people must be more comfortable than others with objects being shoved up their asses....... guess you're okay with it. Me? Not so much.

Also, Technology simply means "knowledge that gives rise to ability". Well... I am fairly certain that cave men had the "technology" to shove a stick up somebody else's ass. The reasons could be varied. See the movie Caveman for technical references.

I was not afraid as much as I was concerned and highly skeptical that it could be done in the first place.

P.S - I had to to be knocked out anyways for the endoscopy (dear god I hope they changed the tubes) so "manning up and taking it" was not an option.

Re:Crohns Disease (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38717474)

Best. Post. On. Slashdot. EVER. Not to add insult to your injury but I laughed like a motherfker! You left me with mixed feelings about this (one end is funny, the other end is going up your ass. You decide.)

Re:Crohns Disease (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710094)

I have ulcerative colitis but it has not destroyed my sense of humor.

Re:Crohns Disease (2)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710260)

I know nothing about Crohn's Disease other that what I've recently read from the en.wikipedia.org.

I had a friend who had Crohn's Disease which he kept a guarded secret. He would host LAN parties at a his house and just
fun and good times for all. His place was very well kept. I was only a bit curious why he didn't have a room mate or girlfriend, as
the second unused room was where most of us set up our rigs. No big deal and never questioned.

A year after I met him he committed suicide because of his pain, and as I understood it, the embarrassment due
the disease and (private) lifestyle he was forced to live.

I understand that this was his choice alone as many live with the disease their entire life, that just wasn't his way.
The extent of his disease or anything about it was also never known outside of his immediate family,

As an understatement, I imagine any thing to help people with this disease would be very much appreciated.

The static magnetic field is only in one direction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38709672)

Either the robot can only swim in one direction, or there are some crazy power electronics inside. The non longitudinal magnetic fields are
AC, and so there is no net positive field in any of the transverse directions. If it is the first one, I say big deal. The challenge would be to reliably move in transverse directions.

Bugged (2, Informative)

yanom (2512780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709706)

Can't help thinking of the Bug from the Matrix.

So, what does it feel like? (5, Interesting)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709746)

The article says "A swallowed pill is essentially at the mercy of the movements of the GI tract. Not so with the microswimmer." Another Googled article informs me that the colon undergoes "Segmentation contractions which chop and mix the ingesta; antiperistaltic contractions propagate toward the ileum, and giant migrating contractions... a very intense and prolonged peristaltic contraction which strips an area of large intestine clear of contents." So among other things this little gadget is swimming downstream when the colon is trying to push things upstream. What does it feel like? Tickling? Gas pains?

When you have a colonoscopy, they give you a sedative (often Midazolam), a pain-killer (often Fentanyl), and sometimes general anesthesia. Of course that's a lot more invasive, but it probably doesn't take as long because the colon is a lot shorter than your whole GI tract. Sometimes the doctor has a little trouble getting a colonscope around a tight corner. Does this thing ever get stuck and how do they deal with it?

Re:So, what does it feel like? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38709922)

Your GI tract is very, very good at what it does - this would not get stuck, barring some sort of severe bowel stricture (secondary to trauma/inflammatory bowel disease) or existing obstruction. The ileocolic junction is the narrowest portion of the GI tract and therefore the most likely location for any blockage, and is accessible by colonoscopy so any (unlikely) blockage could potentially be corrected that way.

Interesting use of MRI magnets, but...Relative to (existing) capsule endoscopy (which is essentially this without the MRI guidance), I worry that this new diagnostic tool adds *a lot* to the cost of existing tests in exchange for marginal convenience (don't have to wait 24 hours for the capsule to pass naturally, then review 24h worth of camera footage). Even traditional capsule endoscopies are rarely indicated and very rarely covered by insurance.

Re:So, what does it feel like? (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710060)

Does this thing ever get stuck and how do they deal with it?

A bucketful of laxitives would be my guess.

More seriously, I imagine that would be a problem they will have to address. TFA is short on details, but it looks like so far they have only gotten to the "powering it" part, meaning this is at least a few years from practical deployment. Navigating the length of the intestine with all it's twists and turns will probably be a nightmare. TFA does mention that they use pills with cameras already, and those pass through just fine (probably not comfortably, but better than cancer). I imagine this will work similarly: i.e. swallowed, not inserted rectally, so it won't even have to swim downstream, just control it's speed and direction a bit.

Re:So, what does it feel like? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710112)

Note that for cameras to be any use the tract must still be filled with gas or transparent liquid. Thus purging will still be required even with this device. They'll just pump you full of neutral saline instead of air.

Does it tickle? (1)

ewg (158266) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709750)

But does it tickle?

Re:Does it tickle? (3, Funny)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710108)

Only if it has a mustache.

Re:Does it tickle? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710138)

I doubt that you will be able to feel it at all. At most the sensation will be similar to mild gas.

What do they mean "swim" (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709832)

I don't know about you guys, but I have quite a bit of air in my colon.

Re:What do they mean "swim" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38709990)

on this planet we don't call hydrocarbon gas and sulfides "air". there's probably another thing in there too, and nothing will be "swimming" though that, maybe a miniature tunnel boring tool to get through one of those colon-logs would be more appropriate.

Good news / bad news (2)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710020)

Good news: the tiny and complex electroics in the robot may be extremely expensive, but they will be reusable.

Bad news: the robot will be reusable.

mod 0P (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710036)

to have regular fly...don't fear '*BSD Sux0rs'. This I read the latest any parting shot, AND WHAT SUUPLIES Everyday...We Come on baby...and unlees you can work

ugly bags of mostly water? (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710082)

So out inside is filled with water for this little guy to swim? Anyone see how it can get stuck? Sounds pretty scary to me.

Re:ugly bags of mostly water? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710172)

> So [our] [insides] [are to be] filled with water for this little guy to swim?

Neutral saline, anyway. And they'll have to be emptied first, just as for a colonoscopy. The main advantage is that this device can explore the small intestine.

> Anyone see how it can get stuck?

No. You can easily pass things larger than this without noticing (unless you have severe obstructions, but you and your physician would know if you did).

MRI? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710118)

Why do they need such a powerful magnetic field? Or do they need the visual provided by the MRI to help guide it? I would think with the camera on it, that it could be guided with just that.

STATIC magnetic fields? exactly how does it move? (1)

neurocutie (677249) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710194)

Since the MRI magnetic field is STATIC, not sure exactly how this little pill is going to move in arbitrary directions. The article isn't sufficiently detailed to answer this question. Unless they are planning to use the RF modulation energy (the same signal that has been known to burn patients in MRI's) -- not sure I'd be happy about that.

BTW, MRI scans run at least $1000-1500 for a quickie scan. So this technique sounds like it will ring up a bill of at least $5000 or more, for a session.

I kinda like the nano fuel cell idea better...

Re:STATIC magnetic fields? exactly how does it mov (1)

Zakabog (603757) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710508)

The swimmer is POWERED by the MRI not controlled. Basically right now what they've got is a small device that has a tail that vibrates in the strong magnetic field from an MRI machine. That vibration can currently propel the device a few millimeters per second in water. That's all the article seems to say, I guess they intend to eventually put a small receiver controlling some sort of rudders as well as a camera and a small power supply? It doesn't say much about how the device will work if there isn't enough fluid for it to move through, do you just move away from the MRI and let your intestines do their job? Do you have to return the device to the hospital or do they not let you leave till you've "flushed" it out?

Re:STATIC magnetic fields? exactly how does it mov (1)

neurocutie (677249) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710814)

ok, please tell me how to POWER a device by a STATIC magnetic field. All common uses of magnetic fields for power require dynamic magnetic fields.

I give you a horseshoe magnet. Make it a motor WITHOUT anything else (no electric fields, etc).

Re:STATIC magnetic fields? exactly how does it mov (2)

neurocutie (677249) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710888)

ok, reading the abstract of the research article provides further clues, though far from a complete explanation... "Here we design and characterize a miniature swimming mechanism that uses the magnetic fields of the MRI for both propulsion and wireless powering of the capsule. Our method uses both the static and the radio frequency (RF) magnetic fields inherently available in MRI to generate a propulsive force." As I suspected, they have to use the RF modulation signal since a static field by itself is not suitable for generating power. The abstract mentions a 20Hz modulation -- I guess they are commandeering the regular RF signals and/or injecting a 20Hz signal on top of it. For example, such a 20Hz signal could be extracted and generating an opposing dynamic magnetic field to create the needed motor. The abstract also mentions a net 0.85mw power output of the setup. I would have to dig into the standard MRI protocols to see what this means for the RF signal, but as I mentioned, this is the same signal that, if misused can (and has) cause severe burns in patients (and subsequent lawsuits). Also still of concern is the length of time of the procedure. Its got to be at least an hour or two, which I think means at least $5000 or more in scanner time, not counted any costs for the added technology.

Re:STATIC magnetic fields? exactly how does it mov (1)

Zakabog (603757) | more than 2 years ago | (#38711378)

Well basically what I pulled from the article is that the entire thing is vaporware as far as what they think it might eventually do. Getting some little device with no camera and no controllers to swim in a fish tank (not in any particular direction) externally powered by an MRI machine is not at all like having a device that won't cause any harm and can actually do something useful inside a patient.

Re:STATIC magnetic fields? exactly how does it mov (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38713952)

The MRI provides three kind of magnetic fields. A very strong static magnetic field, like one part needed for an electric motor. To create motion, like in an electric motor, an electric current is driven through the coils embedded in the tail and a force is generated according to Lorentz's Law. A microcontroller does a good job generating the required waveforms. So it swims with the right waveform.
The device needs power. Hey there is a way to generate RF field at will in the MRI, why not use that for wireless powering, since batteries are usually magnetic therefore incompatible with an MRI scanner. So power generation is solved with that red copper magnet wire loop right at the front of the platform...
The third, the gradient magnetic field is not utilized by this device. That could be used to steer the device, but that would require ferro-magnetic materials and those are not compatible with the operation of the MRI. There are other means to do steering.
Why an MRI? How am I gonna find where are your problematic spots?

Peter
(one of the author)

Unionize! (4, Funny)

owlnation (858981) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710198)

Robots get all the shitty jobs!

Genius (1)

Lucky75 (1265142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710830)

This is genius! Think about possible extensions of this. We could have nanomanchines even going through the body killing disease and not have to worry about powering them.

half baked at best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38711196)

There is no real control here. It's actually a step backwards from the free propagating pill in that it contains a basically dead weight propulsion package.
Others have indicated MRI operational cost is at a premium, so this is simply not economically practical even if it were controllable. Not to mention there is an acute shortage of MRI capacity around the country as is.
Junk 'science'.

name of the robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38711242)

Lemmiwinks? South Park Lemmiwinks song [youtube.com]

Torture device? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38711508)

I worry this can be used as a terrible tool for torture.

probably the only place.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38711696)

that the copper wire is safe from the thieves

Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38711964)

Coolest scalextric track ever.

Innerspace (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 2 years ago | (#38712636)

You know, there was a movies about something like this where a probe was manned by someone shrunk down, but this way it is manned by remote, which ends up allowing the same type of interaction....I guess we learn from our movies?!?

Plasmania! (1)

homb (82455) | more than 2 years ago | (#38713358)

Obligatory 80s reference:
"Sirius Presents... PLASMANIA! HAHAHAHA"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6krSk2dddaI [youtube.com]

(it's the bloodstream, not the intestines, but still...)

Bzzz.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38719556)

I smell a new sex toy in the making...

Bravo! (1)

Alimony Pakhdan (1855364) | more than 2 years ago | (#38719774)

Bravo Slashdot! A post where Israel is mentioned and not a single mentally challenged individual went off on a tin foil hat rant about ZOG, "apartheid" and so on. I'm proud that there was only one blatant Jew hate post.
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