In the near future, cameras and endoscopes may no longer be used to look down the throat, under the skin, or inside your colon, to see the stomach, brain, or any other organs for examination.
A new technique that uses ultrasound to take optical images through biological tissue is being developed at Carnegie Mellon University.
Endoscopic imaging, or using cameras inserted inside the body to investigate symptoms and diagnose patients, is an invasive procedure. It involves using endoscopic cameras that are mounted on the end of catheter tubes or wires and implanted through surgery to reach deep tissues.
The new ultrasound technique is a non-surgical and noninvasive alternative.
The technology being developed creates a virtual “lens” within the body using ultrasound. Carefully tailored ultrasonic wave patterns let the researchers “focus” light within the tissue, which lets them take images never before possible without using invasive means. The properties of the virtual “lens” can be tuned by changing the parameters of the ultrasonic waves, letting users “focus” images at different depths through the medium. The researchers have yet to determine how deep within the body’s tissue this optical imaging method can reach.
Once that’s worked out, the clinical trials pass through different phases, monitored by a panel referred to as an Institutional Review Board (IRB) to protect the rights and welfare of human research participants. The entire time, it passes through review of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies, and then if successful and effective and safe, you begin to see it offered as a therapeutic or diagnostic option.
The new ultrasound imaging method could eventually be packaged in a handheld device or wearable surface patch, depending on the organs being imaged.
If they place the device or patch on the skin, clinicians would be able to easily see what’s inside without endoscopy’s many discomforts and side effects and iatrogenic (e.g. accidental punctures through tissue by the endoscopist during the procedure) risks.