This New Camera Can See Through The Human Body

Surgery is getting better all the time. More procedures that once required large cuts and lots of recovery time can be performed with a tiny incision and a high-tech endoscopic camera. But endoscopes aren't perfect. They may show physicians an image of your insides, but they don't tell them exactly where in the body they're shooting the footage. Luckily, researchers may have found a solution to this problem. They've developed a super-sensitive camera that can detect light through the human body — light like the kind that comes from an endoscope.

Cutting-Edge Tech Made Even Better

It may surprise you to know that as revolutionary as endoscopes have been, they involve a bit of guessing. The surgeon generally has to estimate where the endoscope is in the patient's body based on where they started, and as endoscopes get more advanced and are able to reach ever smaller areas, that gets even harder.

Because it's pretty dark inside the human body, an endoscope shines a light to illuminate the image. Most of those light particles, or photons, scatter — although some scatter less than others — while others escape straight through the tissue. Experts call those slightly scattering particles "snake photons." Straight-ahead particles are "ballistic photons." To identify where the endoscope is in the body, researchers from Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh created a device that can detect both of these types of photons. What's more, it also records how long those photons take to pass through the tissue, helping it identify exactly where the endoscope is located.

Seeing Right Through You

The team tested their device on tissue models of birds and sheep lungs, and were able to figure out where the endoscope was within centimeters, much more precisely than previous methods. They even tried it in a human body, placing a scope on the back of a torso and imaging from the front, with a hand placed in the way for good measure. The camera generated an accurate image, although it did take 17 seconds to do so.

But this is just a first step. The team hopes to improve upon their technology by testing different light wavelengths and building more advanced detectors. That could help physicians find the endoscope at even greater depths.

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Written by Ashley Hamer September 18, 2017

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