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Like the Prometheus “Pups,” Now Doctors Can Map Your Esophagus

Remember that scene in Prometheus where the scientist guy takes those silver balls from his backpack and started “mapping” the inside of the crazy alien mound thing?

Prometheus pupsWell, watch this:

This is the work of the good folks at Massachusetts General Hospital — you’re looking at a pill-sized, tethered endoscope that the docs can use to create a scan of the inside of your esophagus!  That is some pretty amazing stuff!  I think this is also a great time to say that Mass General also won the #1 Hospital in the US award from US News and World Report!  This is important to me, especially given the source of the little pill-sized endoscope.  This didn’t come from a company that does this for a living, this came from a hospital.  To me, this is huge news!  This is a hospital solving a problem that needed solving.

From the article at Nature magazine, posted in January:

Now, researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston have invented a tethered, pill-sized endoscope that that allows doctors to construct an image of a person’s esophagus in microscopic detail within a few minutes—and all without anesthesia, intense training or causing pain. Their work was published today in Nature Medicine.

“A lot of people have reflux but don’t feel the pain of heartburn,” says MGH pathologist Gary Tearney, who led the study. These patients are at high risk for developing cancer, because they usually have no reason to get their esophagus inspected. “[Our device] really opens up screening to many more people,” Tearney says.

The new experimental endomicroscope device looks like a penny-sized, clear plastic pill, attached to a long piano wire that runs to a computer console. It can be swallowed with a cup of water. Because it is tethered, the pill can then be sent up and down the length of the esophagus, where it scans and generates an image.

The device works via optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI), a technique similar to ultrasound but using infrared light. The researchers first generate a beam of light, and then split it into two with mirrors. One beam is sent into a detector where it serves as a reference; the other is sent through the tether, into the pill, where it is directed into the tissue.

In the esophagus, the light beam is focused on an area roughly the diameter of a human hair and then spun around axially 20 times per second. Like in ultrasounds, the properties of the light after it reflects off tissue can be measured. When it is sent back to a detector and compared with the reference beam, the difference between the two can be used to reconstruct a thin cross section of the esophagus in microscopic detail. By stacking these cross-sections together, researchers can create a three-dimensional image of the esophagus in a method similar to CT scan reconstructions.

pill-sized-endoscope

Have you ever had an endoscopic procedure?  Like the ones where they stick the camera down your throat or even maybe a colonoscopy, where they go in the back way?  Let me tell you — I’ve had both, and they both f****ng suck sh** through a tube, and hard.  Consider that when you think of this pill-sized endoscope.  This thing can be swallowed by the patient with little or no anasthesia, long procedures, or even pain from the patient.  This is absolutely awesome.  Finally, something that allows doctors to grab a 3D scan of your esophagus without being in pain while it’s happening.

Check out some awesome images of this pill!  This first image, the sort-of schematic, is actually huge, just click on it:

nm.3052-F1

An image of the device’s scan:nm.3052-F2

The pill itself:Pill_endoscope_web

An image of the pill being held by a technician, showing the size and scale of the device:Pill_endoscope2_web

If you want to see the entire abstract, which is awesome, go here and check it out!

Thanks, Prometheus, BioOpticsWorld, and Nature!

Scanning for Explosives in Body Cavities

I wrote about some body scanning technology (backscatter and millimeter wave) that is being implemented in airports around the world a little while ago, and I just read about some new technology that is being touted as the new frontier in the area of detecting explosives…

…in the body cavities.

Oh yeah.  I cannot wait until Jon Stewart reports on this – “now there’s a scanning technology that can detect the explosive power of Semtex in your anal cavity and differentiate it from the explosive power of Taco Bell in your anal cavity.”  Le sigh.  Now we have to worry about would-be terrorists hiding explosives in their anal cavities?!  Wasn’t it bad enough that we had to be concerned about the Underpants Bomber trying to light his junk on fire to blow up a plane?

Believe it or not, there has been one reported attempt of a d-bag terrorist trying to kill somebody by hiding explosives in that place – a Saudi prince – who was attacked by some idiot called Abdullah Hassan Al Aseeri.  Aseeri stuffed an IED in the rear and went after the Saudi prince.  The prince survived, but as you can imagine, Aseeri was blown into little chunks.

Well, regardless of the situation, there’s this new tech out now called DEXI – diffraction-enhanced X-ray imaging.  Instead of just analyzing the x-rays that pass through the body or that are reflected off of the body, this new DEXI technology analyzes the x-rays that get scattered by soft tissue or other low-density material.  This technology comes to the market from a company in Crown Point, Indiana called Nesch.

From an article at Danger Room:

“Our patented technology can detect substances such as explosive materials, narcotics, and low-density plastics hidden inside or outside of the human body,” company CEO Ivan Nesch claims. DEXI allows explosives to create contrast, he adds, so it would be able to detect both the underpants bomber and the shoe bomber before they boarded.

The image above shows how a conventional radiograph does not detect two packets of “illegal materials” concealed in soft tissue, while they are plainly visible in when DEXI technology is used.

The process of taking the images, analyzing them, and then recognizing substances of interest — such as explosives — can be automated. Alerts issued can be computer-generated. Security staff would simply have to get passengers in and out of the imaging unit.

“The initial expected throughput is approximately one to two passengers a minute,” according to Nesch. “Once installed and tested in real applications, the throughput will be increased.”

One or two people per minute? Holy moly. As if we didn’t have long enough to stand in line through security now.

Why exactly does this technology work so well?  Again, Ivan Nesch – from an article at Purdue University:

“X-ray absorption is the basis of conventional radiography, but carbon, nitrogen and oxygen do not absorb X-rays well. Explosives and narcotics are typically made of these elements. Conventional radiography detects these objects poorly due to its exclusive reliance on absorption,” said Ivan Nesch, CEO. “DEXI is different because it uses X-ray refraction and scattering to construct images, along with absorption. It can detect explosives and narcotics because they noticeably refract and scatter X-rays.”

DEXI’s claim to safety fame is their corporate slogan:  “Less radiation, more information.”  Nesch claims that passengers scanned by NEXI technology are exposed to 50 times less radiation than those scanned by a conventional radiograph.  Well, at least there’s something.  I guess I’d rather have TSA looking in my behind than be dead.

An image scanned with a conventional radiograph vs. a DEXI scan:

On a lighter note, this technology makes me want to have a nice large meal of Taco Bell, KFC, and Burger King ten hours before heading to the airport so I can give the pleasant and friendly TSA employees something interesting to look at while they get to check out all kinds of my personal space.  Make sure to eat some corn.

What? Photocopy Your Butt In This Chair

What?

ibum

Tomomi Sayuda may have a nice bee-hind, but I have to say that I’d need a bit bigger of a scanner.  Tomomi has designed a chair, referred to as the “iBum,” that essentially scans and photocopies the sitter’s tushie as they sit in the chair, then spits out the copy for them to scowl at stare at in amazement.  Tomomi says that “the arse is the window to the soul.”  In my case, it is the sliding glass door.

From Apartment Therapy:

I believe that human buttocks are one of the less discussed and focused part of human body. In this “iBum” project, I would like to reveal the visual of this less popular part of body without notice. The chair reveal human unconsciousness and reality. When audience sit down on the chair, a scanner on the top of chair start to scan people`s buttocks automatically.  Then the scanned image is printed out from the right hand side of the chair. A sensor is detecting people`s existence all the time. So people will not realize the existence of the scanner. Without notice, the photocopy of the bum will arrive next to the chair.

Here’s some video – whereas Tomomi looks kinda bored as she waits for her buttcopy, one woman goes as far as to smell her copy, just to “make sure,” I guess: