Monday, February 3, 2014

Digestive Diagnostics: Portable, Wearable, Insideable

Next sensors will be in you, said a recent popular article. And some of them will monitor your digestive system.

Accurate monitoring of digestion is hard. There are apps and high tech gadgets for that - like a fork that monitors eating speed or a watch that counts bites, but neither of them can provide a continuous and objective measures of what exactly is eaten and how it affects the digestive system.
Thanks to wonders of modern technology, cows now have a device that can monitor the effects of food on their digestive system. Well Cow bovine health monitor, an inch thick capsule almost as long as human hand, can be swallowed by a cow and measure the rumen pH and temperature within the digestive system every 15 minutes. It then transmits the data to a Bluetooth collar around the cow’s neck. This data can help to monitor the healthiness of cow's food intake, to predict its gas-forming potential in the short term, make sure it will lead to a high quality milk or prevent the development of health issues such as acidosis or infertility in the long term. The device can last between 80 to 100 days inside the cows.

A smaller vitamin-sized device (1mm x 26mm with weight less than 4 grams) was recently approved for use in humans. This ingestible pill camera - PillCamSB -  can monitor pressure, pH and temperature, gastrointestinal motility, lesions, ulcers, early signs of tumors and bleeding within the small bowel. FDA approved it for patients who have experienced an incomplete colonoscopy, as its lower-resolution-imaging can't completely replace the procedure.

Food we eat and drugs we take can communicate from our insides too - Ingestible Event Maker sensor - size of a grain of sand - can be attached to any pill or a food item.

Perhaps in the future we could rely on "insideables" to monitor our diet and automatically generate recommendations on what to eat and what to avoid?

According to a song, The Future's So Bright Gotta Wear Shades.


Kiourti, Asimina. (2014). Implantable and ingestible medical devices with wireless telemetry functionalities: A review of current status and challenges. Bioelectromagnetics, 35 (1), 1-15 DOI: 10.1002/bem.21813

Hoskins, S.; Sobering, T.; Andresen, D.; Warren, S. (2009). Near-field wireless magnetic link for an ingestible cattle health monitoring pill Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, 2009. EMBC 2009. Annual International Conference of the IEEE DOI: 10.1109/IEMBS.2009.5332812

Wong WM, Bautista J, Dekel R, et al. Feasibility and tolerability of transnasal / per-oral placement of the wireless pH capsule vs. traditional 24-h oesophageal pH monitoring – a randomized trial. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2005; 21(2): 155-163.

Hirono I, Richter JE. Practice Parameters Committee of the American College of Gastroenterology. ACG practice guidelines: esophageal reflux testing. Am J Gastroenterol. 2007; 102(3): 668-685.

Teunissen LP, de Haan A, de Koning JJ, Daanen HA. Telemetry pill versus rectal and esophageal temperature during extreme rates of exercise-induced core temperature change. Physiol Meas. 2012 Jun;33(6):915-24. doi: 10.1088/0967-3334/33/6/915. Epub 2012 May 3.


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