The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports about an effort to add “legs” to a capsule endoscope:
The words “intestinal bug” could gain a whole new meaning if a Carnegie Mellon University engineer is successful in his efforts to develop a medical robot for examining the intestinal tract.
Metin Sitti, director of the NanoRobotics Lab, is developing a set of legs that could be incorporated into the swallowable camera-in-a-pill that has become available in the past four years for diagnosing gastrointestinal disorders in the small intestine…
In the simplest scheme, the capsule could deploy three legs, creating a tripod that could stop the capsule’s movement through the intestine, giving doctors a chance to take a closer look at something.
Polymer pads on the leg tips, mimicking the adhesive foot pads of the palmetto beetle, would stick to the intestinal walls. The adhesive foot pads require very little pressure, yet enable the beetle to withstand forces of more than 200 times its body weight.
A more elaborate, telescoping capsule, featuring a set of three legs on either end, would enable it to crawl as if it were inchworm. The capsule could thus go rapidly to a point of interest or, if sufficient power was available, move upstream to give doctors a second look at a suspicious lesion…
Sitti’s work is still in its early stages, however. Thus far, he has devised a simple, three-footed apparatus less than two-thirds of an inch in diameter to test its stopping power in flexible plastic tubes and, in preliminary testing in South Korea, in pig intestines. A six-footed apparatus for testing the inchworm-like locomotion has been assembled and will soon be ready for testing.