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Robotic pill to revolutionise cancer treatment?

A tiny robotic pill that could deliver medicine to hard to reach areas inside the body is being developed by researchers in the UK.

The novel device, which measures just 30 x 11mm, comes equipped with a miniature video camera positioned at the tip, a remote controlled 'anchor' and a miniature repositionable syringe.

As the pill makes its way through the body and reaches a tumour, the anchor is deployed from its casing. A tiny needle stored inside the casing can then be positioned and injected near the tumour to deliver a 1ml dose of medication. The on-board camera relays all the necessary information back to the surgeon in real time.

The area the researchers want to target specifically is the small intestine, a place notoriously hard to reach. The team believes the on-board syringe could enable chemotherapy medicine to be targeted more precisely, reducing the number of invasive procedures needed to remove tumours in patients.

While hospitals across the UK currently use robotic pill technology as a diagnostic tool, the Imperial researchers claim their pill is the only one that can deliver treatments as well.

Dr Tim Constandinou, from the Winston Wong Centre for Bio Inspired Technology and the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial, said: "We are developing a robotic pill that has the potential to deliver treatments directly to tumours or ulcers in the small intestine.

"We are still a long way off from delivering this technology to the hospital bedside, but we hope it could one day improve outcomes for patients undergoing treatments."

The team is hoping to have a working prototype ready within six months. The device will then be tested over a two year period in animal models to gauge its effectiveness, which could lead to clinical trials.

Author
Laura Hopperton

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