Scientists Have Developed a New Camera That Can See Through the Human Body

Doctors will soon be able to “see” through the human body, thanks to a new camera developed by scientists in Scotland.

The cutting edge technology can detect light sources in the body and will allow doctors to track medical equipment such as an endoscope – a slender medical instrument equipped with a camera – when used during an internal exam. Until now, doctors had to rely on x-rays when using an endoscope to pinpoint its exact location inside the body. The development marks a huge step up from costly x-rays, a photographic technology that’s been around since the late 1800s.

The advancement is a crucial step in technology’s involvement in minimally invasive procedures, said a statement from Kev Dhaliwal, a professor at the University of Edinburgh. “This is an enabling technology that allows us to see through the human body.”

Typically, light bounces off of body tissue instead of traveling straight through it. This scattering of light can often result in a blurred image, making it difficult to get a clear picture and resulting in a loss of valuable information for doctors. Thousands of integrated photon detectors inside the camera prototype have so far been able to track pointed light through 20 centimeters of tissue. The prototype is also portable enough to be wheeled in for use at a patient’s bedside.

The camera uses a ballistic imaging technique, differentiating between scattered and ballistic photons to help doctors better navigate the bodily interior they’re seeing with an endoscope.

The photo on the left shows what the prototype camera sees with light that is emitted from the tip of an endomicroscope, revealing its location in a sheep’s lungs.

The photo on the right, obtained from a traditional camera, shows the scattered light and is unable to determine where the photos are originating from.

The multi-institutional project called Proteus is led by senior researcher Dhaliwal, and is centered around an array of new imaging technologies that will help visualize biological information that has previously remained unseen. A focus of the project is to develop instruments helping the study of lung and respiratory diseases.

The team hasn’t laid out any concrete date for when the camera will start to pop up in hospitals for clinical treatments, but they’re confident it will be a huge aid in doctors’ use of endoscopes and imaging technologies down the road.

“I hope we can continue this interdisciplinary approach to make a real difference in healthcare technology,” added the team’s researcher Dr. Mike Tanner.

Dr. Dhaliwal and Dr. Tanner using the camera’s prototype.

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