Ingestible ‘Smart Capsule’ is a Breakthrough for Gut Health, Could Save Lives

  • 11 January 2018
  • Sam Mire

CES season is a time when the world gets a sneak-peak into many of the technologies of the future. Countless tech bloggers, many the industry’s brightest minds, and the generally curious flock to the convention, but it’s inevitable that this time of year brings more sensationalism than substance.

Don’t let CES-mania allow you to overlook one invention, as it holds potential that could truly prove the difference in life and death for many. A team out of RMIT University in Australia has developed the first gas-sensing ‘pill’, though the capsule is unlike any pill you have ever swallowed. The first of its kind, it measures levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen to measure gut health and even detect the onset of different disorders such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, colitis, malabsorption syndrome and even colon cancer, whose differing microbial causes the medical community still remains ignorant to.

This vitamin-sized device’s gas-permeable membrane could be used to provide more specific and early diagnoses, allowing individuals to monitor their gut health and dieticians to form individualized dietary regimens that allow patients to avoid or alleviate the digestive disorders.

Measuring gut gas levels, and therefore monitoring the combination of gases and microbes that interact to eventually cause disorders in our digestive tract is nearly impossible with current tools. Breath tests, tube insertions, and fecal analysis are often inaccurate, not to mention varyingly uncomfortable. As a partial result, many people choose to live for years or decades with discomfort before seeing a physician for an upper-GI or colonoscopy, often only to find out they have waited far too long. For these reasons, the easily ingestible gas-sensing capsule could change the way we monitor, prevent, and diagnose disorders of the gut.

This could represent a gastric protection system against foreign bodies. Such an immune mechanism has never been reported before, said Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh, co-inventor of the capsule.

The pill has successfully passed phase one of human trials at Australia’s Monash University, and funding for phase two is currently being collected. Eventually, the pill will reach market, and real-time data about the concentration of gases in the intestinal tract will be transmitted to smartphones and other devices, giving us greater insight than ever into what may be causing those strange noises often arising from the unseen depths of our stomachs.

With a non-transparent, polyethylene shell equipped with gas-detecting sensors, the internally contained temperature sensor, microcontroller, transmission system and button-size silver oxide batteries can operate with no threat posed to our health. If it proves safe and functional, the ingestible device could, by far, be the least invasive, most effective gut health diagnosis breakthrough to date. In the case of colon cancer prevention and detection, it could literally prove to be a lifesaver. And, it will only cost $30-$40 to produce at scale, with the inventors vowing that they will make the capsule as widely available as possible.

We're not doing this for profit,” he says. “The only thing we want to see is benefit for people, Kalantar-Zadeh added.

During a time of year where we tend to focus on the latest smart-gadget or trendy, unnecessary piece of flashy tech, the significance of this smart capsule shouldn’t be overlooked.

About Sam Mire

Sam is a Market Research Analyst at Disruptor Daily. He's a trained journalist with experience in the field of disruptive technology. He’s versed in the impact that blockchain technology is having on industries of today, from healthcare to cannabis. He’s written extensively on the individuals and companies shaping the future of tech, working directly with many of them to advance their vision. Sam is known for writing work that brings value to industry professionals and the generally curious – as well as an occasional smile to the face.