There's nothing quite like getting heavily sedated and having a big ol' camera crammed down your throat so that doctors can take a look at your oesophagus and cut out a little piece to study in the lab. A fun Friday night. Fortunately, endoscopy doesn't have to be like that too much longer thanks to a small, easily-swallowable endoscope that requires no sedation at all, and returns a full 3D rendering.
About 3 million Americans are estimated to suffer from a condition called Barrett's esophagus, where the esophagus accumulates abnormal changes thanks to acid reflux. This puts them at greater risk for esophageal cancer, but the problem is that the condition can often be relatively painless, and who wants to go around endoscoping tons of relatively symptomless people the old, sedative-laden way?
This small, clear, pill-sized camera developed by Massachusetts General Hospital makes the process much easier, and makes preforming an endoscopy "just in case" much, much less costly in a variety of ways. The pill-camera can be pushed up and down the esophagus (which still sounds mildly unpleasant) by its tether, which also sends back the images taken by blasts of infrared light that create a 3D cross-section of the fleshy tube with microscopic detail.
All in all, it still sounds mildly unpleasant, but far less so than coming down with a case of esophageal cancer. And when it comes to places we could have tiny cameras shoved, I think we'd all opt for the throat. [Nature]