Summer 2012 - Summer 2014 This project aims to enable in vivo robotic mobility through the use of small capsule-sized robots equipped with bio-inspired micro-patterned treads. Our approach is unique in that it focuses on mobile, in vivo robotic surgical assistants that can operate within both the insufflated, or uninsufflated, space of the abdominal cavity and the collapsed lumen of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, specifically the small bowel and colon.

Our initial focus has been on the inaccessible small bowel as an enabling technology test-bed to better detect and treat Crohn’s disease, celiac sprue, and intestinal bleeding, among other illnesses. In one configuration, the patient swallows the micro-robot(s) which can then be remotely driven down the GI tract, sending high-definition video signals wirelessly to a video monitor at the bedside, to perform tasks both intraluminally and extraluminally. These tasks would include diagnostic interventions such as tissue biopsy as well as therapeutic interventions; for example, the delivery of chemotoxins to a target tissue (i.e. cancer cell) or micro-magnets to create an intestinal anastomosis. This would allow interventional diagnosis and treatment without the need for anesthesia, endoscopes or skin incisions.

Hypothesis: a mobile robotic capsule endoscope (RCE) would not only decrease GI tract transit time compared to a passive capsule endoscope (CE), but provide real-time video and maneuverability, so that the surgeon could orient the device as needed (i.e., detailed visualization, drug delivery, biopsy, etc.) and actively maneuver to avoid retention.