Mermaid, the Swimming Capsule Endoscope, Ryukoku University and Osaka University Create New Device

Published: Jun 27, 2011

Researchers from Ryukoku University and Osaka Medical College in Japan have developed a self-propelled remote-controlled endoscopic pill. The Mermaid, as the device is called, is 1 centimeter wide and 4.5 centimeters long and has a tail fin-like magnetic driving gear that allow it to “swim” through the digestive tract. It is controlled using a joystick and can be swallowed or inserted rectally. The Mermaid can examine the whole human digestive canal from the esophagus to the colon in a few hours, while taking two shots per second. The battery for the endoscope’s camera lasts around eight to 10 hours, and the device can move tens of centimeters per second outside the human body. The driving gear is powered by an electromagnet, although it is unclear to us whether this implicates that the device actually contains the complete propagation mechanism itself only requiring an external power source or if it also makes use of external magnets for pill navigation, like similar efforts that are undertaken by Given Imaging with their Pillcam. The capsule was first tested inside a dog’s stomach in 2009 and now a smaller version of it is being tested in humans. The device was presented at a news conference in Osaka Prefecture, where images were shown of the Mermaid traveling inside the stomach and colon being propelled by its tail fin, along with pictures it shot.

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