A couple of years ago, Australia's RMIT and Monash universities announced the development of a swallowable electronic capsule that measures concentrations of intestinal gases, and transmits that data to a smartphone. Since then, it's been successfully trialled on pigs. Now, however, RMIT has announced that it's been tested on humans for the first time.
The single-use medical device contains a gas sensor, microprocessor, battery and wireless high-frequency transmitter. After being ingested, it measures concentrations of select gases as it makes its way through the digestive tract. Its readings are relayed to a mobile device in real time, after which it's passed naturally.
The technology allows doctors to diagnose gastrointestinal disorders based on what gases are present in what quantities at which locations – the location of the capsule can be ascertained via an x-ray or ultrasound. Additionally, the presence of those gases can also be used to determine a patient's general state of health.
In the just-completed first phase of the human trials, it was found that the capsules safely and easily passed through test subjects' digestive tracts. Additionally, the devices demonstrated "several thousand times" more sensitivity to gut gases than traditionally-used techniques, such as the analysis of patients' exhaled breath.
More information on the trials will be available next month, when lead scientist Prof. Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh and his team present their findings at the Digestive Disease Week conference in Chicago.