A team of scientists from RMIT University in Australia has conducted the first-ever trials of a smart capsule designed to improve our understanding of intestinal gas. With the ability to measure the amount of gas present in the gut, the capsule is already improving understanding, and could one day lead to targeted, patient-specific treatments.

Intestinal gases are thought to play a part in a wide range of issues, from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to colon cancer. However, despite its assumed importance, we actually don't have a strong understanding of its role in health, as there's currently no easy way to measure the gases inside the gut.

To improve our knowledge of the gases, a research team from RMIT University has been working on a small capsule that's able to transmit data from inside the gut. It consists of a gas sensor, battery, microprocessor and wireless transmitter, and is designed to work its way through the patient's system, relaying measurements of the concentration of target gases back to a connected smartphone.

We first heard about the new tech back in March last year, but since then the team has conducted successful tests, working with two groups of pigs, one fed with a high-fiber foods and another with a low-fiber diet.

Lead scientist Prof. Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, with the capsule(Credit: RMIT)

The results of the study are already changing our understanding of the effects of fiber on the gut, with the team finding that the high-fiber diet produced a quarter of the hydrogen of a low-fiber diet – the opposite of what our current understanding predicts. The readings also suggest that high-fiber diets produce more methane in the large intestine, leading to painful gas retention that could be avoided by lowering fiber intake.

Considering that the study represents the first-ever use of the smart capsule, the fact that the findings are so insightful indicates a bright future for the device. In the long run, the team believes that the capsule could have a big impact on treatment.

"We hope this technology will in future enable researchers to design personalised diets or drugs that can efficiently target problem areas in the gut, to help millions of people worldwide that are affected by digestive disorders and diseases," said study lead Prof. Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh.

The researchers published their findings in the journal Gastroenterology.

Source: RMIT

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