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CMU Breakthrough Could Lead To Major Changes In Medicine

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- In the labs at Carnegie Mellon University they've developed what previously was only possible in science fiction.

Well, a few cameras have traveled inside the human body since "Fantastic Voyage" was made in 1966, but always tethered to the outside world because they needed power.

That's what the brains at CMU have developed.

"Essentially, a battery that you can eat," said Christopher Bettinger, Ph.D., of CMU Material Science and Biomedical Engineering.

The premise is simple; most of us don't like the idea of invasive procedures. But as Bettinger says, "anyone can eat a pill. People are very comfortable with that."

And with the power supply folded into a vitamin size capsule, Bettinger says, "you can basically use it to power any devise that you can also eat."

The concept being - you swallow it, and it lodges in your stomach or intestines and goes to work.

"It can give you information about biomarkers, abut local PHs, about temperature, things like that, but also possibly different kinds of pathologies in the GI track," Bettinger added. "It could power something that could transmit… it could be a sensor. It would pass through just like food passes through."

KDKA's John Shumway: "How much power?"

CMU Graduate Student Wei Wu: "Not that much. Look at the size and look at the materials we put it on, it's not like a car battery or something like that, but it's enough to for the applications."

It's all made from items we eat anyway.

"We're repackaging them into a power source," Bettinger said.

Bettinger says commercial application of the device is about five to 10 years away, and the only limitation on what it can do is the limitation of the human mind.

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