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January 27, 2008

Age Of Wonder

Not long ago (certainly within most of our lifetimes) it was sometimes the case that doctors practically had to saw you in half just to find out what was wrong with you. Medical science as it existed in my childhood- or even fifteen years ago- would seem shockingly primitive today.

But now they can get detailed images of your innards with ease, and many very serious surgeries can be performed through your bellybutton or somesuch. The accelerating advances in medical technology cannot be overstated. Neither can the cost.

So check this out.

What if swallowing a pill with a camera could detect the earliest signs of cancer? The tiny camera is designed to take high-quality, color pictures in confined spaces. Such a device could find warning signs of esophageal cancer, the fastest growing cancer in the United States.

Quicker, more comfortable, and cheaper. The trend of all things good.

The scanning endoscope developed at the UW is fundamentally different. It consists of just a single optical fiber for illumination and six fibers for collecting light, all encased in a pill. Seibel acted as the human volunteer in the first test of the UW device. He reports that it felt like swallowing a regular pill, and the tether, which is 1.4 mm wide, did not bother him.

Once swallowed, an electric current flowing through the UW endoscope causes the fiber to bounce back and forth so that its lone electronic eye sees the whole scene, one pixel at a time. At the same time the fiber spins and its tip projects red, green and blue laser light. The image processing then combines all this information to create a two-dimensional color picture.

I'm just in such frickin' awe of smart people. With one tech leading to another the way they do, who can imagine what medical science will be like in five years?

Hope this wasn't too boring. Just thought it was so cool.


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posted by LauraW. at 10:56 AM

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