Conventional endoscopes can get quite pricey these days, sometimes costing more than $100,000 a set. Moreover, they’re expensive to maintain because of intense cleaning regimens that are required to prevent transmission of infections.
Engineers at the University of Leeds in the UK are working on bringing the price of endoscopes closer to $50 and avoiding intense cleanings altogether. The team has redesigned the devices from scratch, used cheap materials and components, and focused its application on a few common diagnostic procedures. Plus, because the components that enter the body are disposable, aggressive sanitation procedures are not necessary and so a dedicated sterilization suite is not necessary as well.
The device is made of a reusable control column and a disposable part that enters the patient. This disposable section consists of a silicone tube and a capsule containing a tiny camera. Because the production cost of the disposable component is so low these days, it is probably cheaper to dispose of it than the cleaning that today’s endoscope receives.
Of course there are limitations of the current prototype of the device, and the main one is that there’s no biopsy channel through which a tissue sample can be retrieved. Nevertheless, screenings for things like Barrrett’s Esophagus and stomach cancer can still be performed, something that can have significant impact on the death rates of GI cancers.
The engineers developing the device are still optimizing it and trying to make it smaller, more capable, and cheaper to manufacture. They still have to test the current version against conventional endoscopes in the clinical setting, the results of which we’d be very curious.
Via: University of Leeds…