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Quantum Dots Help Track Endoscope Movement in Colon

A Tufts University team at the School of Engineering led by associate professor of Mechanical Engineering Caroline G.L. Cao has created a system that could minimize patient discomfort while scanning for colon cancer and ensure that the test results are accurate.

The endoscopic fiber optic shape tracker (EFOST) technology could address problems occurring during insertion of the endoscope into the colon for normal scanning. The scope tip can hit against the colon surface as it moves through the colon bends. This renders the tip immobile and unable to pass ahead. This leads the doctor to exert more pressure, which creates a loop in the scope just behind the tip. The endoscope allows the doctor to view only the front portion, making the loop invisible and difficult to be removed. This leads to patient discomfort and pain.

Fiber- optic bend sensors and digital electronics integrated in the endoscope exhibits its placement and structure on a monitor, delivering an efficient visual navigation tool. Cao along with mechanical engineering research associate professor Peter Y. Wong, has published the research paper titled, ‘Localized Active-Cladding Optical Fiber Bend Sensor’ in the June 2010 edition of the journal Optical Engineering.

The team integrated quantum dots circumferentially at specific points along an optical fiber. The fiber was pulled around a metal cylinder to render a bending effect. A laser light was injected into the inner core of the fiber from one end. The fiber core emitted light as it was bent. This activated the quantum dots to immediately re-send light signals of differing intensities to a spectrometer. This data helped determine the curvature degree of the fiber. The position of the dots enabled the team to determine the curvature direction. The intensity of the light emitted was directly proportionate to the degree of curvature.

An inanimate prototype colon fabricated from polyurethane foam was developed. The fiber was entrenched into an endoscope and passed through the model. This helped generate a video image by transmitting the data via a digital processor to create the scope image in the model. The procedure will allow doctors to track the movement of the scope, and its shape within the colon.



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