Smart pill could help doctors pinpoint digestive difficulties – study

A smart pill could help doctors pinpoint digestive issues, new research suggests.

The ingestible sensor which can be monitored as it moves through the digestive tract could help diagnose digestive disorders.

This includes conditions such as constipation, gastroesophageal reflux disease (where acid from the stomach leaks up into the oesophagus), and gastroparesis (where food passes through the stomach more slowly than it should).

Collectively, the conditions are referred to as gastrointestinal motility issues.

The tiny sensor works by detecting a magnetic field produced by an electromagnetic coil located outside the body.

The strength of the field varies with distance from the coil, and therefore the sensor’s position can be calculated based on its measurement of the magnetic field.

In the new study, the engineers at MIT and Caltech used the technology to track the sensor as it moved through the digestive tract of large animals (pigs).

They say such a device could offer an alternative to more invasive procedures in humans, such as endoscopy, that are currently used to diagnose motility disorders.

The researchers hope the ingestible pill could be used by patients in their own home, and be used instead of more invasive procedures.

Giovanni Traverso, the Karl van Tassel Career Development assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT in America, said: “Many people around the world suffer from GI (gastrointestinal) dysmotility or poor motility, and having the ability to monitor GI motility without having to go into a hospital is important to really understand what is happening to a patient.”

GI motility disorders can occur in any part of the digestive tract, and result in the failure of food to move through the tract.

X-rays, imaging, or catheters are usually used to diagnose the conditions.

The study, conducted in collaboration with NYU Tandon, is published in Nature Electronics.

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