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Smart Pills Offer Diagnostic Tool for Gut Disorders

By Labmedica International staff writers
Posted on 08 May 2017
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Image: Recent phase-I clinical trials suggest that smart pills may have potential to revolutionize diagnosis and prevention of several gut disorders (Photo courtesy of RMIT University).
Image: Recent phase-I clinical trials suggest that smart pills may have potential to revolutionize diagnosis and prevention of several gut disorders (Photo courtesy of RMIT University).
Researchers have completed successful phase-one human clinical trials of ingestible capsules (the size of a vitamin pill) that have potential to revolutionize diagnosis and prevention of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders and diseases.

Researchers at RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia), led by the pills’ co-inventor Prof. Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, tested the ingestible smart capsules that journey through and measure gas levels in the GI tract. The human trials were undertaken with colleagues from Monash University. “We have been lucky to have Monash medical academics helping us on this journey,” said Prof. Kalantar-zadeh, “Without their input we would not be able to proceed.”

RMIT is one of the leading universities researching the development of ingestible sensors, a technology that has demonstrated several 1000s-times more sensitivity to gut gases than current alternative techniques. “Currently, one of the only methods for diagnosing gut disorders, such as mal-absorption of carbohydrates, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammable bowel disease, is to measure hydrogen concentrations in the breath,” said Prof. Kalantar-zadeh, “However, breath tests are mired by a lack of sensitivity and specificity and are unable to provide the necessary gold standard for diagnosis.”

Co-inventor Dr. Kyle Berean said, “Ingestible sensors also offer a reliable diagnostic tool for colon cancer, meaning that people won’t have to undergo colonoscopies in future.”

A key finding from the initial trials was on the safety of the new technology: “Smart pills are harmless and there is no risk of capsule retention,” said Dr. Berean. An added advantage is that the capsules can be synched with smartphones, meaning results are easily accessible by users and doctors online. There are also many potential applications for this technology.

“The sensors allow us to measure all the fluids and gases in the gut, giving us a multidimensional picture of the human body,” said Prof. Kalantar-zadeh, “Gas sensing is just the beginning.”

A paper by the Centre for Advanced Electronics and Sensors (CADES) research team outlining the future of ingestible sensors was published in the April 2017 issue of the journal ACS Sensors. Outcomes of the human trials were presented at Digestive Disease Week (DDW; Chicago, IL, USA, May 6-9, 2017).


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