Sunday, May 10, 2015

Making Digestion Health Easier to Digest

From balloons inserted into stomach or colon to the dreaded colonoscopy, digestive diagnostic procedures are not fun. Tracking diet and symptoms, too, is tedious and frustrating - unless, like a mouse, you can be isolated in a chamber linked to analyzers that automatically measure everything for you.

New noninvasive tests are emerging but adoption is slow. Medicare and most insurance plans won’t pay for a less invasive version of the conventional colonoscopy - CT colonography  - as its lacks the sensitivity and specificity of the traditional test.
Pill cameras for the detection of colorectal polyps and cancer are, too, still inferior to those of standard colonoscopy. Besides, even though these tests are much faster and less invasive than conventional techniques, patients still need a cleansing preparation of their bowel prior to the test. In addition, the pill camera that usually exits the body after 10 hours, has to be surgically removed in 8% of the patients. And virtual colonoscopy leads to more “incidentalomas" and unnecessary treatments.  A few novel endoscopic innovations also have uncertain clinical relevance.

A simple wearable tracker of intestinal gas recently proposed by a Brazilian designer and telecommunications major  does not seem to attract much interest in consumers. Perhaps it is because it offers too little information? After all, even the cow health tracker - Well Cow pill - measures not only the gas-forming potential of foods, but also pH and temperature within the digestive system to better monitor the healthiness of diet.


Accurate measurement of intestinal gases could offer new insights into lives of human gut microbes and metabolic activities.  Two novel techniques, in vitro fermentation and swallowable gas capsule systems, for measuring and assessing selected gas species, were recently proposed and could potentially be used for less invasive diagnostics of irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer, and other gastrointestinal conditions. But could not we do better than popping gas sensor "pills" for easy every-day measurements of digestive health?

We at Aurametrix think so. Stay tuned for more. 


REFERENCES

Ou JZ, Yao CK, Rotbart A, Muir JG, Gibson PR, & Kalantar-Zadeh K (2015). Human intestinal gas measurement systems: in vitro fermentation and gas capsules. Trends in biotechnology, 33 (4), 208-213 PMID: 25772639

Speakman, J. (2013). Measuring Energy Metabolism in the Mouse – Theoretical, Practical, and Analytical Considerations Frontiers in Physiology, 4 DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2013.00034

von Delius S, Schmid RM, & Meining A (2010). Pill camera. Endoscopy, 42 Suppl 2 PMID: 20556714