The incidence of gastrointestinal diseases is rising. 12% of all inpatient procedures, in the US, are related to the gastrointestinal tract. More than half of these procedures are invasive and cause discomfort to the patient.

The need to develop non-invasive diagnostics for gastrointestinal diseases was inevitable. The scientists at RMIT understood this gap and have been working to fill this up for a long time.

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The scientists at RMIT have successfully completed phase one human trials of ingestible capsules with sensors that have the potential to revolutionize the prevention and diagnosis of gut disorders and diseases.

Ingestible sensing capsules are a fast emerging, critical technology. They are noninvasive and hence are very attractive for customers.

The information gathered by these smart capsules during their journey across the human gut can be assessed to extract valuable of the state of gut health and disorders, the impact of food and medical supplements and the effects of environmental changes on the gastrointestinal tract. The data can be readily seen and reviewed online, and accessed by both users and physicians.

The co-inventor of the ingestible sensing capsule Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh said, “Currently, one of the only methods for diagnosing gut disorders, such as mal-absorption of carbohydrates, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammable bowel disease, is to measure hydrogen concentrations in the breath. However, breath tests are mired by a lack of sensitivity and specificity and are unable to provide the necessary gold standard for diagnosis.”

Co-inventor Dr Kyle Berean said: “Ingestible sensors also offer a reliable diagnostic tool for colon cancer, meaning that people won’t have to undergo colonoscopies in future. Smart pills are harmless and there is no risk of capsule retention.”

The most promising feature of these ingestible sensors is that their passage through the gut lumen gives them access to every organ of the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, ingestible sensors offer the ability to gather images and monitor luminal fluid and the contents of each gut segment including electrolytes, enzymes, metabolites, hormones, and the microbial communities.

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“The sensors allow us to measure all the fluids and gases in the gut giving us a multidimensional picture of the human body,” Kalantar-zadeh said. “Gas sensing is just the beginning.”

Remarkable knowledge regarding the functionality and state of health through key gut biomarkers can be obtained with no invasion.

The human trials for these smart capsules were undertaken with colleagues from Monash University. The outcomes of these trials will be presented next month in Chicago at Digestive Disease Week (DDW).

Reference:

Kalantar-Zadeh, K., Ha, N., Ou, J. Z., & Berean, K. J. (2017). Ingestible Sensors. ACS Sensors. doi:10.1021/acssensors.7b00045