Scientists have developed edible sensors that could one day help doctors with the detection of digestive tract disorders, according to a report in TechCrunch.
The ingestible device, created by researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital, can be rolled up into a capsule and swallowed. Once ingested, the capsule dissolves and the sensor attaches itself to the wall of the stomach, monitoring movements of the digestive tract.
The rhythmic contractions measured by the sensors in the gut could help with the diagnosis of digestive disorders. The device, once fully developed, could be given to a patient to detect gastrointestinal disorders that slow down the passage of food or to monitor food intake in patients being treated for obesity.
Measuring 2 by 2.5cm, the sensors are made from special piezoelectric materials, which generate current and voltage when mechanically deformed.
The information about the scale of energy generation could help researchers determine how much the wall moved or determine when food materials or liquids were consumed.
The sensors also have flexibility thanks to polymers they contain. The polymers carry elasticity similar to that of the human skin and enable the sensor to flex and stretch along with the stomach wall.
During a recent experiment, the scientists tested the sensors successfully on a pig and demonstrated that it could work for up to two days. The information about the voltage was transmitted through external cables. The findings of their demonstration have been published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.
"Having a window into what an individual is actually ingesting at home is helpful because sometimes it's difficult for patients to really benchmark themselves and know how much is being consumed," says Giovanni Traverso, an author of this study.
The researchers now plan on using piezoelectric material's ability to generate energy to add additional sensors or wireless transmitters, which would add benefits of safety and eliminate the need for batteries.