MIT scientists have developed a new 3-D colonoscopy technology that makes it easier for doctors to detect precancerous growths.
The three-dimensional images produced by the new device could lead to earlier detection of such lesions, potentially reducing the death rate from colorectal cancer, which kills about 50,000 Americans every year.
The new technique, known as photometric stereo endoscopy, captures topographical images of the colon surface with greater clarity, revealing flatter growths typically missed by traditional colonoscopy procedures, said Nicholas Durr, a research fellow who is part of a new consortium of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Madrid who are working on the technology.
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"In conventional colonoscopy screening, you look for these characteristic large polyps that grow [in] the colon, which are relatively easy to see," Durr said. "However, a lot of studies in the last few years have shown that more subtle … lesions can also cause cancer."
In a new report in the Journal of Biomedical Optics, Durr and his colleagues said the new technology could be easily incorporated into newer endoscopes used in colonoscopies, which are recommended beginning at age 50.
"A lot of existing colonoscopes already have multiple light sources," he said. "From a hardware perspective all they need to do is alternate the lights and then update their software to process this photometric data."
The researchers now plan to test the technology in human patients in clinical trials at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Hospital Clinico San Carlos in Madrid.
The research was funded by the Comunidad de Madrid through the Madrid-MIT M+Vision Consortium.
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