Endoscopy is widely used, but it is a limited procedure. Current endoscopes are too thick and/or inflexible to enter very small spaces like joints or winding lumina such as cardiac arteries and blood vessels in the brain. Single fiber technology faces a calibration problem: when the endoscope bends, the light mixes in the single fibre and the formed image is scattered and becomes useless. Lack of space for device movement makes minimally invasive endoscopy impossible, forcing physicians to use more invasive technologies or techniques such as MRI and CT with lower resolutions and inherent drawbacks like costs and radiation.
There is great need for a minimally invasive endoscope to revolutionize many medical fields. Intra articular imaging, ear-nose-throat (ENT) endoscopies, vascular imaging and neurosurgery, are some examples. In addition to faster and more accurate diagnosis and therapy monitoring, micro endoscopy promises to offer a replacement to MRI and other imaging techniques in many cases.
The Pryfiber single multimode optical fibre (MMF) is an endoscope with only one optical fibre which allows for minimally invasive imaging due to an ultrathin diameter of <300 microns. The core innovation is an AI algorithm that enables real-time calibration of the endoscope during surgical or imaging procedures. The algorithm uses deep learning to reorganise the light that travels through the MMF, recreating accurate and useful images. Furthermore, this technology enables both microscopic high-resolution cellular imaging as well as standard endoscope tissue imaging.
As a first application, in-office arthroscopy has been assessed to allow better guided treatment for millions of patients suffering from arthritis. The inventor team at Queen Mary University of London has reached proof of concept recreating corresponding images while bending the optical fibre and is developing a lab prototype. The next steps are to tailor it to the most impactful applications, develop the software and start product development.
Meet the team
Taco van der Feltz
Taco joined NLC in 2015 and is a highly international and networked entrepreneur trained as Medical Doctor and Medical Biologist. He is a visionary strategist conversant within and across disciplines. As Venture Partner, Taco focuses on building innovative companies and strengthening NLC’s abilities to bring innovations to healthcare.