A swallowable sensor could help us to better understand how the intestine works

A new swallowable sensor could shed light on new unprecedented information and discoveries for science

Written Tuesday, by Emanuele Mortarotti

A sensor that is easy to swallow

From anxiety attacks to autism, science has recently revealed the role and influence the intestine and the processes inside it can have on the rest of the body. Despite the progress and discoveries that continue to be made each day in the medical field, it appears there is much to be discovered on the digestive system: can such a small sensor really be of help?

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have made some interesting discoveries: they have produced a sensor (of the same size as a common pill) that is swallowable, and able to help physicians identify and diagnose disorders and diseases in the intestine. The sensor is able to resist the stomach’s extreme conditions where acids and enzymes as well as gases such as hydrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen abound. What’s more, it is also able to “capture” information in real time and transfer it to commonly used devices such as pcs and smartphones.

During the research, published on 8 January 2018 in Nature Electronics, the above sensors were tested on 7 participants in good health who alternated their diets with little and (later) much fibre. The sensors measured with great accuracy the moment in which food penetrates the intestines of clinical trial participants, confirming their potential as medical devices able to monitor the health and activities of the digestive system. Are swallowable sensors the future of medicine? If so, approximately 20% of the world’s population suffering from gastrointestinal problems could avoid undergoing invasive exams such as colonoscopies or explorative surgery.

In addition to revealing the safety and effective usefulness of swallowable sensors, these innovative clinical experiments have also revealed new and interesting discoveries on the digestive system, unknown to science as of yet.

 

A new immune mechanism

The data detected by the swallowable sensor has revealed that the stomach releases oxidizing chemical substances for neutralizing and destroying any “foreign” molecule found in the stomach for longer than it should be. “This could be a gastric protective system against foreign organisms”, states Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh, leader of the research team and co-inventor of the swallowable sensor. “This new information could help operators and researchers in the medical field to better understand the diseases that afflict the intestine, namely cancer”.

The results of this study are undoubtedly encouraging and will stimulate researchers to unite with leading companies in the industry producing medical devices: meanwhile, it is certain that the developing team of this revolutionary sensor has set the merchandising process into motion. Soon, swallowable sensors will be helping physicians and healthcare operators in their daily work and in diagnosing disorders linked to the digestive system.

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Emanuele Mortarotti
Author Emanuele Mortarotti

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