Researchers 3D print the world's smallest flexible scope for imaging blood vessels

A team of scientists working together from the University of Adelaide and the University of Stuttgart has created the world's smallest, flexible scope for looking inside blood vessels. The tiny scope was built using 3D micro-printing to create a medical device able to be inserted into the blood vessels and provide high-quality 3D images.

The goal of the project was to help scientists better understand the causes of heart attack and heart disease progression. The 3D printed lens the researchers created is so small it's able to scan inside the blood vessels of mice. The lens is attached to the end of an optical fiber that is the thickness of a human hair.

The goal of the camera is to help researchers understand the causes of heart attack and the progression of heart disease, which is a significant killer of people all around the world. In Australia, cardiovascular disease kills one person every 19 minutes, according to the researchers. A significant factor in heart disease is plaque, which is made up of fats, cholesterol, and other substances that build up on blood vessel walls.

Tiny endoscopes, such as the one the team has created, allow doctors to look inside the vessels to see how the plaque forms and explore new ways to treat it. The team was able to print complicated lenses that are too small to see with the naked eye using the 3D micro-printing technique. The entire endoscope, including its protective casing, is less than half a millimeter across.

It's unclear as of writing when the tiny endoscope might be available for doctors to use room world. A smaller endoscope also has the potential to reduce healing time from procedures and make the procedures more comfortable for the patient.