A growing body of evidence suggests a direct link between human health and intestinal microbiota, especially those in the small intestine, where the majority of digestion takes place. However, the precise correspondence between intestinal microbiota and disease remains elusive, largely because traditional endoscopes cannot reliably access the whole length of the small intestine. While the duodenum is usually accessible using classical push-endoscopy techniques, the jejunum and ileum, where most microbiota live and where the vast majority of nutrient absorption occurs, are notoriously difficult to access non-invasively.
To address these limitations, this project aims to develop a flexible, magnetically-steered endoscope with a novel rotary actuation method to quickly and easily traverse the entire length of the small intestine, and to take samples of the gut microbiota at regular intervals along the way. The combination of magnetic guidance and rotary locomotion has already proved much more effective than traditional techniques in porcine models and promises to make systematic study of the entire small intestine a reality.