Battle of the ‘Fantastic Voyage’ researchers

January 12, 2012 by Amara D. Angelica

The 1961 classic science-fiction movie Fantastic Voyage movie is about a team of scientists who are shrunk down and sent in a miniature submarine inside the body to repair a blood clot in an ailing colleague’s brain. How far have today’s scientists come in exploring inside the body?

Pretty far. We’ve reported on 17 research projects since 2003 to develop innovative endoscopes and other devices for exploring the gut, brain, colon, heart, bladder, tissues, and tumors — even imaging inside a cell and monitoring molecules, both of which are actually smaller than what you see in the movie.

Endoscope Sensing

Nanowire endoscope using quantum dots inside a living cell (credit: Berkeley Lab)


Controllable endoscopic capsule (credit: BWH)

They haven’t quite worked out the human-shrinking part yet, though.

The latest project, just announced, is by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), who have successfully tested a controllable endoscopic capsule  that has the ability to “swim” through the body and could provide clinicians with unprecedented control when photographing the inside of the human body.

The capsule is designed to be swallowed like a pill and can be equipped with a camera. Once inside the patient’s digestive track, a doctor can “steer” the capsule through the body using an MRI machine, photograph specific areas of interest, and view those pictures wirelessly.

The capsule is an evolution of an an earlier project at Tel Aviv University.

By the way, 20th Century Fox is reportedly planning to produce a 3D remake of Fantastic Voyage, produced by James Cameron.

So how small were the humans shrunk to, judging by what you see in the trailer?