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The authors are developing devices for semi-autonomous or autonomous locomotion in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In this paper, they illustrate the systematic approach to the problem of "effective" locomotion in the GI tract and the critical analysis of "inchworm" locomotion devices, based on extensor and clamper mechanisms. The fundamentals of locomotion and the practical problems encountered during the development and the testing (in vitro and in vivo) of these devices are discussed. A mini device capable of propelling itself in the colon and suitable to perform, at least, rectum-sigmoidoscopy (the tract where approximately 60% of all colon cancers are found) is presented. This paper introduces preliminary, but useful, concepts for understanding, modeling and improving the performance of virtually any existing and novel devices for endoscopy of the GI tract.
Date of Publication: June 2002