About 35 million Americans suffer from digestive problems such as constipation, indigestion, constipation, and gastroparesis (partial paralysis of the stomach). These so-called motility disorders are when food cannot move properly through the system and are usually diagnosed using endoscopy, nuclear imaging studies, or x-rays.
But engineers at MIT and Caltech have come up with a less invasive alternative: a non-edible sensor whose environment is monitored as it travels through the body. The innovation makes it easier to identify the source of the problem without ever having to visit the hospital. In the new study, the researchers demonstrated that they can use their system to track the sensor as it moves through the digestive tract of large animals.
The tiny sensor measures the magnetic field generated by an electromagnetic wire outside the body. Since the field strength weakens with distance from the coil, its growth can be calculated from the measurements. The hope is that doctors can use this information to help determine which part of the digestive tract is causing the blockage and determine treatment.
To help determine the location of the swallowed pill, a second sensor is left outside the body as a reference point. This sensor can be attached to the skin, the coil can be placed in a pocket or bag, or on the back of the toilet. A wireless transmitter sends the magnetic field measurement to a nearby computer or smartphone.
“The ability to detect activity without the need for radiation, an in-hospital visit, or the placement of additional invasive equipment could reduce barriers to getting people evaluated,” said associate professor Giovanni Traverso, senior author of the study. in mechanical engineering at MIT and a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The researchers now hope to work with collaborators on the manufacturing process and eventually test the system in humans.