Scientists design ingestible electronic pill that can be controlled wirelessly

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An electronic capsule that can be ingested and controlled wirelessly to deliver drugs has been designed by scientists, in an effort to reduce surgical procedures.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology believe that the device could be used to provide drugs to users for a variety of diseases that require medication over longer periods of time, especially those that require strict and regular doses.

The 3D-printed pill can be controlled externally using Bluetooth, and could be developed further to detect infections or an allergic reaction in the future.

“Our system could provide closed-loop monitoring and treatment, whereby a signal can help guide the delivery of a drug or tuning the dose of a drug,” said Professor Giovanni Traverso, co-author of the research, which was published in the Advanced Materials Technologies journal.

The vitmain pill-sized sensor detects gases in the gut, sending live data to a mobile phone.

Ingestible sensor for tracking colon cancer
Meanwhile researchers from Australia’s RMIT University have developed an ingestible sensor that can track gases in the gut
. The size of a vitamin pill, it measure gases in real time and can send this data to a mobile phone. The sensors could help to diagnose gastrointestinal issues before patients begin presenting symptoms.
Professor KouroshKalantar-zadeh, study lead and capsule co-inventor, said the trials showed that the human stomach uses an oxidiser to fight foreign bodies in the gut. Trials showed the presence of high concentrations of oxygen in the colon under an extremely high-fibre diet,” Kalantar-zadeh said. This new information could help us better understand how debilitating diseases like colon cancer occur.”

Scientists also believe such a device could work with other health wearables and implants to send the information to the patient’s phone or their doctor.

The capsule dissolves when consumed, allowing arms to expand and lodge itself in the stomach for around a month, before it begins to break apart and leaves the body through the digestive tract.

Lead author of the paper, Professor Yong Lin Kong, said the limited connection range serves as a desirable security enhancement.

“The self-isolation of wireless signal strength within the user’s physical space could shield the device from unwanted connections, providing a physical isolation for additional security and privacy protection,” he explained.

At the moment, a small silver oxide battery powers the device but alternatives, such as an external antenna or using stomach acid, are being explored.

The group’s latest work builds on previous attempts to create an ingestible pill. In 2016, they designed a star-shaped capsule with six arms that fold up. It is hoped that humans will be able to test ingestible sensors within two years.

 

Chris Price