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Ingestible Sensors to Monitor Tract Motility and Diagnose GI Disorders

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Published on : Oct 11, 2017

Monitoring of gastrointestinal (GI) tract in humans becomes more non-invasive with the development of an ingestible sensor that is flexible and safe. A team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, have developed a flexible sensor that can be rolled up into a capsule and ingested. After swallowing, the capsule dissolves and the sensor gets attached to the intestinal lining or stomach wall. The flexible sensor is made up of piezoelectric materials and can be used to detect any impairment in motility of the GI tract. The device will prove useful to diagnose a number of GI disorders and monitor symptoms such as gas, nausea, constipation, and conditions related to difficulty in swallowing. Another potential application can be to help clinicians monitor food and liquid intake in patients who are being treated for obesity.

The study was detailed in a paper published on October 10 in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Flexible Sensor Said to be Non-Invasive and Safer than Other Rigid Ingestible Devices

The ingestible sensor system built by the researchers at the MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research measures 2 by 2.5 cm, with the needed electronics circuits fabricated onto flexible polymers called polyimides. These polymers are flexible and have elasticity similar to human skin so that they can stretch and move along with the movement of the GI tract. The piezoelectric materials used can generate a voltage when brought under mechanical stress, which when connected to external cables with the aid of sensors can detect and measure the rhythmic movement of the stomach wall.

In the study, the investigators used the sensor in the stomach of pigs by placing them endoscopic ally and found them to stay intact and functional without causing any adverse physiological response-sort of electrical or mechanical degradation.

The researchers are working on developing the piezoelectric voltage generated by the device to power any additional sensor and wireless transmitter, without any need for on-board battery system. This in turn will increase the safety of such devices.

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