Scientists have developed a new medical camera that can see through the human body. The camera was designed to help doctors track medical tools known as endoscopes. Endoscopes are used to investigate multiple internal conditions. Until now, it has not been possible to track where an endoscope is located in the body in order to guide it to the right spot without using X-rays or other methods. Light from the endoscope can pass through the body but it usually scatters or bounces off tissues and organs instead of traveling straight through. The new camera is able to detect sources of light inside the body, such as the illuminated tip of the endoscope.
The new camera uses advanced technology that can detect individual particles of light, called photons. Experts have integrated thousands of single photon detectors onto a silicon chip, similar to that found in a digital camera. The technology is so sensitive that it can detect the tiny traces of light that pass through the body’s tissue from the light of the endoscope. It can also record the time taken for light to pass through the body, allowing the device to also detect the scattered light. By taking into account both the scattered light and the light that travels straight to the camera, the device is able to work out exactly where the endoscope is located in the body. This ability to see a device’s location is crucial for many applications in healthcare, as we move forward with minimally invasive approaches to treating disease.