A new type of endoscope - first developed by a Swiss university - that may potentially halve the time needed to complete a small bowel endoscopy to about 30 minutes, will be put to the test in Hong Kong.
The Chinese University of Hong Kong and ETH Zurich are collaborating on clinical trials on the magnetic-guided endoscope as part of an alliance to develop innovative technologies for gastrointestinal diseases.
Professor Philip Chiu Wai-yan, director of the CUHK Chow Yuk Ho Technology Centre for Innovative Medicine, said endoscopic examination is difficult as the small intestine is five meters long and soft in nature with multiple foldings.
"The new technology developed from ETH was inspired by previous experiments on magnetic-guided cardiac catheters," he said. "Compared to conventional enteroscopy, it is much easier for the 10mm endoscope to travel through the whole small bowel for complete examination."
CUHK vice chancellor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu, a specialist in gastrointestinal medicine, said the new endoscope is unique in its magnetic tip, which will allow doctors to have more accurate control over the instrument's movement inside the patient's intestine.
As the movement of the new endoscope is more delicate, it will prevent the patient's intestines from being stretched to the point of causing great discomfort, Sung said.
He said with traditional types, such as the push endoscope, patients will sometimes "yell out in pain."
Chiu agreed the magnetic-guided endoscope "can be precisely steered through the whole small bowel, enhancing complete examination with lesser pain and discomfort to patients."
Pre-clinical studies will soon be performed on animal models and the team is hoping to test the endoscope in clinical setting in three years, the universities said.
Chinese University will also partner with ETH to develop a novel magnetic guided biopsy forceps for tissue sampling.
Bradley Nelson, head of the ETH Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems, said: "We are delighted to work with the CUHK research team who will help translate the technology into clinical practices."
ETH Zurich came fifth in engineering and technology subjects in 2017's QS University Rankings. Its graduates include physicist Albert Einstein and chemist Alfred Werner.