Drugs Health Medical

Ingestible robot pill to help detect gastro disorders

robot pill

HQ Team

February 14, 2023: A team from Caltech and MIT has developed pill-shaped ingestible robotics equipped with sensors that can detect gastrointestinal issues in detail. 

The tiny robots use electromagnetic fields and a coil operated outside the body to follow the pill’s progress through the GI tract. The strength of the electromagnetic field is relative to its distance from the coil.

Gastrointestinal dysmotility

“Many people around the world suffer from GI 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,” says Giovanni Traverso, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Sensor text detects gastro reflux

The researchers have begun testing the system in models of large, non-human animals. They note that they were able to accurately determine the system’s position within 5-10 millimetres. The idea is to offer a mechanism that can monitor gut health at home rather than needing to go into the doctor’s office or hospital

“Using an external reference sensor helps to account for the problem that every time an animal or a human is beside the coils, there is a likelihood that they will not be in exactly the same position as they were the previous time,” says coauthor, Khalil Ramadi. “In the absence of having X-rays as your ground truth, it’s difficult to map out exactly where this pill is, unless you have a consistent reference that is always in the same location.”

Early applications for the technology include detecting for constipation, gastroesophageal reflux disease and gastroparesis. The idea is to offer a mechanism that can monitor gut health at home rather than needing to go into the doctor’s office or hospital.

GI disorders, affect about 45 per cent of the world population and can occur in any part of the digestive tract, resulting in the failure of food to move through the tract. They are usually diagnosed using nuclear imaging, X-rays, or by inserting catheters containing pressure transducers.

“The ability to characterize motility without the need for radiation, or more invasive placement of devices, I think will lower the barrier for people to be evaluated,” says MIT associate professor, Giovanni Traverso.”

The ingestible sensor also includes a wireless transmitter that sends the magnetic field measurement to a nearby computer or smartphone. The current system version is designed to take a measurement any time it receives a wireless trigger from a smartphone, but it can also be programmed to take measurements at specific intervals.

The next steps will be to test it in animals and clinical trials then with humans, before partnering with manufacturers to bring it to market.

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