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Pulling Power
14 September 2015

Pulling Power

A ‘pill on a string’ that scrapes cells from the inside of the gullet, or oesophagus, could help doctors detect cancer at an early stage. When swallowed, the pill’s casing dissolves in the stomach to release a cytosponge, pictured, which is dragged back up the oesophagus by means of an attached string. Cells sticking to the sponge can then be examined in the laboratory for warning signs of cancer, such as mutations or shape changes. Oesophageal cancer is becoming more common and is much easier to treat if caught at an early stage. Trials on patients suggest that the pill on a string is simpler and cheaper than a biopsy – and has the advantage of scraping cells from the whole length of the oesophagus, not just one small area.

Written by Mick Warwicker

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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