In the mid-1960s, a popular science fiction movie called Fantastic Voyage portrayed the exploits of a group of scientists who traveled through a human body in a miniature submarine. Hollywood is often wrong in its portrayal of the future, but part of that fiction has become reality.

Given Imaging Ltd. (Yoqneam, Israel) recently unveiled a disposable miniature camera and wireless imaging system. After ingestion with a cup of water, the M2A Capsule Endoscope travels through the digestive tract capturing high quality color video images of the entire small intestine for diagnosis of gastrointestinal diseases and disorders. The capsule is excreted naturally.

The FDA-approved system, which also includes a portable data recorder and computer workstation, is a non-invasive alternative to endoscopy. Signals are recorded digitally on a device that is worn about the patient’s waist during the examination.

The capsule is made of a specially sealed biocompatible material that is resistant to the digestive fluids found throughout the GI tract. Each capsule weighs 4 grams and measures 11 by 26 millimeters—approximately the same size as a large vitamin.

The capsule contains a miniature color video camera, a light source, batteries, a miniature transmitter and an antenna. According to Dr. Gavriel Meron, president of Given Imaging, the M2A device is "made possible by the development of complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) video imaging chips that require far less power than more conventional charge-coupled device (CCD) chips."

Pemstar Inc. (Rochester, MN) is building and operating semiautomated assembly lines for Given Imaging.

RF System Lab (Nagano, Japan) has developed a robotic capsule camera that does not use batteries. Power is transmitted by multiplexing radio waves to the capsule from outside the patient’s body. The device transmits 30 images per second, which allows it to capture subtle movements.

While viewing images, doctors can control the Norika v3 endoscopic capsule and administer medical treatment directly to the problem areas. Discharge of medication is possible from a small tank within the capsule. Sensors for measuring pH and manipulators for cutting tissue are also feasible.