Do all diagnostic means and tools related to guts send shivers down your spine? Are you horrified when you hear the word “colonoscopy”? The industry is making every effort to make gastrointestinal diagnostics less invasive and more bearable. Now they have introduced a pill that can monitor gas in your guts. Yes, this info can be useful.
Image Credit: nature.com
Fart and furious
The novel device was developed by Australian researchers and engineers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. As its inventor K. Kalantar-Zadeh stated, the pill is designed to analyze the content of farts. And there’s nothing funny about that – the information gas content can provide can help doctors determine whether the gut is functioning properly or not.
By sensing different gases, it can help analyze what parts of the gastrointestinal tract fail to do their job the way they should. What constitutes the gas inside your guts depends largely on what you eat, and your diet affects how much this and that you have in your colon or the small intestine. For example, when you consume food that is rich in fiber, such as beans, corn, avocado, etc., the concentration of hydrogen in your colon increases, whereas the opposite is seen when you eat low-fiber food. Besides, your diet affects digestion rates. In the case of high-fiber food, the capsule spends more time in the small intestine.
How it works
The capsule is small – it’s only 2.5 cm long, and the cover is made of plastic, so it cannot be digested. There are three different molecules that the device is capable of detecting, and these are hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen. The device has a built-in battery, and it sends signals to the smartphone synchronized with it, and shows the levels of each of the above stated gases in different parts of the gut. The pill is expelled in a natural way, without bringing any inconveniences to the person it has toured.
The gases in question are of interest because they are produced by microorganisms that consume food in the gut that has not been digested. It is supposed that the pills can help determine how a particular body reacts to dietary changes. However, the potential of the technology, while definitely being significant, is still unknown, and the researchers have a lot of work to do, because analyzing the gas content inside the gut can be a good source of information for gastroenterologists. Besides, one can use such a pill to see how medications affect the gastrointestinal tract.
The researchers also say that you monitor how the pill is travelling the person’s intestinal tract by the level of oxygen it reports.
The new ingestible sensor has already been trialled on six volunteers. Using ultrasound, the researchers monitored the pill’s location. These six people served as a model, because the pill had previously been tested only on pigs. It is in this trial that the investigators learned that oxygen levels can be used to determine where the pill is.
Despite the small size of the cohort, researchers from several universities have already encouraged the invention, saying that it can provide valuable information and contribute to diagnostics of gastrointestinal problems.
As an ingestible sensor, it does not make the patient feel pain, and the process of monitoring is easy: all you have to do is to read what your smartphone is saying you and wait for the pill to reach the finishing line.
More research is needed to determine what information the device can provide, and how the levels of these gases can help diagnose diseases, but the technology itself is promising.