Capsule transmits live gas reports from inside the gut

A transparent rendering of the gas-sensing capsule (Image: RMIT)

We've already heard about swallowable capsules that can transmit video from within the digestive tract. Pictures will only tell you so much, though. That's why researchers from Australia's RMIT and Monash universities have now developed a capsule that measures concentrations of intestinal gases, and sends that data to a smartphone or other device.

The presence of different types of intestinal gas is not only associated with various gastrointestinal disorders, but may also serve as an indication of a patient's overall health.

Ordinarily, these gases are measured using methods such as breath analysis. According to lead scientist Prof. Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh of RMIT, however, those methods are unreliable. For one thing, they can't determine where within the digestive tract the gases are present.

That's where the capsule comes in. It contains a gas sensor, microprocessor, battery and wireless high-frequency transmitter. The device is swallowed, then proceeds to measure concentrations of select gases as it makes its way through the digestive tract. Those readings are transmitted to a device such as a smartphone, before the capsule is ultimately passed naturally.

Although human trials have yet to begin, it has already been successfully tested in animals.

"Being able to accurately measure intestinal gases could accelerate our knowledge about how specific gut microorganisms contribute to gastrointestinal disorders and food intake efficiency, enabling the development of new diagnostic techniques and treatments," said Kalantar-zadeh. "But these high-tech capsules could also help people work out precisely how particular foods affect their guts."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Trends in Biotechnology.

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