- Researchers have a location-aware ingestible to monitor the GI tract, which can be valuable for the diagnosis and treatment of GI disorders.
- Gastroenterologists agree this device may be a helpful tool in the future.
- Since more studies on the smart pill need to be conducted, it’s important to be aware of signs that you have gastrointestinal problems. These include symptoms such as diarrhea, anemia, joint swelling, bleeding in stools, abdominal pain, weight loss, and nausea.
According to the CDC, approximately 3.1 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This includes two conditions, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which are the result of prolonged inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Today the primary approach used by doctors to examine GI issues includes endoscopy and manometry, both of which are invasive procedures carried out in hospital environments.
Scientists are looking into an alternative approach where GI monitoring can take place with portable and non-invasive procedures. This would include a video capsule endoscopy (VCE) and wireless motility capsules. Ideally, this approach would be more practical and more comfortable for the patient.
Keeping this in mind, researchers at the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created and tested a new prototype, a location-aware ingestible to monitor the GI tract, which may be valuable for the diagnosis and treatment of GI disorders. The research was published this month in the journal Nature Electronics.
At this stage, the three-dimensional (3D) localization and tracking of the device has only been conducted in the GI tracts of large animals. Further research is needed before human clinical trials can begin.
What this Device Can Mean for Future Gastrointestinal Monitoring
This location-aware ingestible microdevice may be a helpful tool for gastroenterologists in the future, Dr. Olga Aroniadis, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine and Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Stony Brook University Hospital, explains.
“In patients with Crohn’s disease of the small intestine, the exact location of their ulcers is at times difficult to ascertain,” Dr. Aroniadis told Healthline. “If this tool can help us localize the area so that we may be able to biopsy it, it would be very beneficial in decreasing procedural times.”
Dr. Rajiv Sharma, a practicing integrative gastroenterologist, agrees that the localization capabilities can be beneficial.
“GI anatomy, and health issues vary from location to location within the GI system due to variance in function, and microbiome,” said Dr. Sharma. “This will be helpful, as long as there is no electromagnetic interference from EMF-radiating devices.”
It’s important to note that the research is still in early stages and more studies are needed before this device becomes widely available.
“The authors propose that these images would be superior to current devices however head-to-head trials have not been conducted and data on this new mapping system is sparse and needs considerable testing in human studies to determine if there is indeed any superiority,” Dr. Tamika Jaswani, gastroenterologist, Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas, stated. “At this time further studies would be recommended.”
Signs you have GI issues
Since the smart pill is still very far away from human use, it’s important to be aware of signs that you have gastrointestinal problems.
“Look for symptoms, like diarrhea, anemia, joint swelling, bleeding in stools, abdominal pain, weight loss, and nausea,” said Dr. Sharma. “Look at bowel movement color and type. For example, if there are loose stools and oil floating in the toilet pan, it can represent gut issues that should be brought up with your doctor.”
Knowing the difference between IBD and IBS is also crucial.
“IBD stands for inflammatory bowel disease, which can be either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis,” Dr. Aronaidis explained. “It’s different from IBS, which is irritable bowel disease. In IBD, you will have ulcers in your GI tract whereas with IBS, there is no visible pathology on the colonoscopy, and it is more of a sensitivity to certain foods.”
The best way to tell if you have GI issues is to discuss your symptoms with your doctor. They may be able to help you figure out if they are normal expected changes that occur in your body due to age or if you have a condition that needs to be evaluated further, Dr. Aronaidis added.
“IBD requires prompt diagnosis to prevent complications so recognition of alarming symptoms – bleeding, weight loss, prolonged abdominal pain should always trigger a visit to the doctor,” said Dr. Jaswani. “Usually, basic lab work including checking inflammatory markers in the blood and stool can suggest inflammation of the gut and ultimately lead to endoscopic evaluation.”
To date, no devices have been shown to replace the need for endoscopic evaluation but can be used as adjuncts to monitor disease activity and response to therapy, Dr. Jaswani explained. Some of these adjunctive studies will include imaging either in the form of CT or MRI (which does not expose patients to radiation) and pill-based monitoring systems.
Researchers have created a new prototype, a location-aware ingestible to monitor the GI tract which can prove helpful to diagnose and treat GI disorders.
Since more studies are required, it’s helpful to be aware of signs that you have gastrointestinal issues. These include symptoms such as diarrhea, anemia, joint swelling, bleeding in stools, abdominal pain, weight loss, and nausea.
Gastroenterologists agree this smart pill may be beneficial in the future.
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