Easy-to-swallow endoscope camera

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Miniaturisation has not only upgraded our telephones into PCs and helped secure our homes like perfect James Bond hideouts, it has also revolutionised healthcare.

By providing treatment and life-saving solutions which were inconceivable just a few years ago, the NaviCam capsule is a fascinating example.

Shanghai-based ANKON Medical Technologies brought together a pool of experts from various backgrounds, including doctors and engineers specialised in materials, micro-electronics and imaging to create this small gem. The result is a capsule made up of a tiny camera, that the patient simply swallows with a glass of water. NaviCam revolutionises endoscopy by ensuring a truly non-invasive stomach examination. We can at last forget about uncomfortable and intimidating traditional intubation.

What does NaviCam look like? Imagine a 27 mm long, 11.8 mm wide capsule, with a volume of less than 3 cm3. Incredibly, this miniature device contains over 300 components, including a camera, a wireless signal transmitter, an LED light source and a magnet !

Capable of navigating in all directions, NaviCam can explore the slightest nooks and crannies of the gastric cavity without any blind spots. It is controlled by an external guidance device through a magnetic field communicating with the capsule’s magnetic sensor. It takes about 15 minutes for the remote-controlled capsule to move through the digestive tract, following the doctor’s instructions and to take thousands of images at two frames per second. Once its mission completed, the single-use capsule continues its way through the lower digestive tract and is naturally discarded.

In order to improve diagnosis, the images are downloaded during the examination onto a secure Cloud platform, accessible to over 400 specialists. The on-site physician and the patient can thus rely on external support for identifying any possible gastric condition or tumour.

In addition to robot guidance and miniaturisation, creating such a device involves other challenges, such as how to make it resistant to acids and alkalis contained in the digestive tract, or how to ensure that it is harmless to the body. For this reason, NaviCam is covered in a layer of biocompatible polymers. It can then guarantee painless gastroscopy with no need for anaesthesia.

In China, where it was designed, NaviCam has been hailed as a major breakthrough. 

It won the 2016 China Top Ten Medical Progress Award and has already been introduced into almost 1000 medical analysis laboratories in 30 Chinese provinces and cities.

Through this invention (fitted with LEMO’s RR series connectors), gastroenterologists are hoping to reduce the high incidence of stomach cancers, an illness with one of the highest rates of increase in China, often diagnosed too late because of the test methods being considered too invasive by the patients. Armed with this simple and comfortable technology, they will be able to reverse the current trend of mortality and prolong the lives of many people.

Through its camera and light source, Navicam captures clearly legible images

Ankon is aiming at making endoscopy much less uncomfortable for millions of patients.

Ankon is aiming at making endoscopy much less uncomfortable for millions of patients.