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After years of development, University of Arizona researchers have captured their first images inside fallopian tubes with a new device that could be used to search for early signs of ovarian cancer.

University of Arizona BIO5 Institute Director Jennifer Barton developed the high-resolution falloposcope, which has a diameter of only 0.8 mm.

University of Arizona BIO5 Institute Director Jennifer Barton [Photo credit: University of Arizona]

“It’s itty bitty,” she said in a news release. “You just couldn’t have fabricated something like this, even six, seven years ago.”

Dr. John Heusinkveld has used the falloposcope since September to look inside the fallopian tubes of four volunteers who were having their tubes removed for non-cancer reasons.

“This is the first endoscope that can fit inside a fallopian tube and actually see anything below the surface with high resolution,” said Heusinkveld, who is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the College of Medicine – Tucson and a board-certified specialist in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at the Banner – University Medical Center in Tucson.

The 20-patient pilot trial will allow the researchers to test the device’s effectiveness and understand what non-cancerous tubes look like for comparison, with Heusinkveld offering ease-of-use and effectiveness feedback to the engineering team.

“The goal here is to show that we can get into the fallopian tubes – which is nontrivial itself – take images, assess the quality of the images and get physician feedback,” Barton said. “This study will help establish a baseline of the range of what ‘normal’ looks like.”

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