In Brief
A team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh have developed a camera capable of seeing through the human body. The camera works in conjunction with an endoscope, and provides a better inside look than other methods like an x-ray scan.

Better Than X-Ray Vision

For many years doctors have been able to get a look inside a person’s body using X-ray scans, or placing a tiny camera inside the body. But those tools provide a limited view and can only reveal so much. A recently developed camera, however, may give doctors the ability to see everything happening in the human body, no matter where it is.

The camera was developed by researchers from the University of Edinburgh, and it’s meant to work while paired with an endoscope — a long, slender piece of equipment that usually has a camera, sensors, and lights at its tip.

Light emitted by the endoscope typically scatters when it comes into contact with structures within the body, such as body tissue, but the new camera is able to pick up on it thanks to the photon detectors inside of it. The camera is able to detect light sources behind as much as 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) of bodily tissue.

Image Credit: University of Edinburgh
Using a technique known as ballistic imaging, the camera uses light scattered within the body with light that comes directly to the camera to determine the location of the endoscope, or any other light source.”This is an enabling technology that allows us to see through the human body,” says Professor Kev Dhaliwal, senior researcher on the project. “The ability to see a device’s location is crucial for many applications in healthcare, as we move forwards with minimally invasive approaches to treating disease.”

Image Credit: University of Edinburgh

There’s no time frame for when the camera will be used in official medical treatments, but there are plans to further develop the camera to allow doctors to see the tip and length of medical objects inserted into the body. If it’s every fully implemented, the camera will provide an invaluable understanding of what’s going on inside the body, as well as a more efficient means of “seeing” without resorting to other methods like x-rays.