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Candid Camera.

Coming soon to your gut: a video camera the size of a cough drop that you swallow. No, it's not for candid home videos. The new "camera-in-a-pill" will help doctors diagnose potential health problems in the digestive system, a network of organs that digests food.

Right now doctors detect stomach disorders such as ulcers (sores in the stomach lining) using an endoscope, a flexible fiberglass cable that carries light rays to the gut. The light forms an image and sends it back to a handheld viewer.

Not only is the procedure uncomfortable--the cable is snaked down the throat into the stomach--but it doesn't reach the small intestine, a 6.5 meter (21 foot)-coiled tube that lets the bloodstream absorb nutrients. "The camera-in-a-pill can go places we have trouble getting to," says Dr. James Frakes, a gastroenterologist (stomach doctor) in Rockford, Ill.

The patient swallows the mini-camera like a normal pill. As the camera travels down the digestive tract, it snaps several images per second and transmits data to antennas and a Walkman-like receiver worn on a patient's belt. A computer processes the data and keeps tabs on the camera's location. It also produces still or video images a doctor can use to diagnose problems or illnesses.

So far the device has been an easy pill to swallow. "Once it goes down, you don't feel it at all," says Frakes. The camera pill takes about 24 hours to wind its way through the body. Given Imaging of Yokneam, Israel--the company that makes the device--has successfully tested it on animals and 10 human volunteers, but more trials are needed before its approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Scientists hope a future version of the camera pill will repair gut problems as well as spot them!
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Title Annotation:cough-drop size video camera for diagnostic uses
Author:Dyer, Nicole
Publication:Science World
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Oct 2, 2000
Words:297
Previous Article:Science in the News Quiz.
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