Ingestible device in pill form to monitor health

A team of scientists has created an innovative ingestible device. It is in the form of a pill and, when ingested, introduces a device into the body capable of monitoring the individual’s vital signs directly from the intestine.

Pill-shaped ingestible device

Ingestible device that monitors vital signs

This advanced device spent its testing period in clinical trials with human participants, continuously monitoring crucial aspects such as breathing and heart rate.

The results of this pioneering study were published in November 2023 in the prestigious magazine “Device”. This advance represents a significant milestone in health monitoring, offering new perspectives for personalized medical care.

The person in charge of the study is gastroenterologist Giovanni Traverso, who works at Bringham and Women’s Hospital, and is also a researcher at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). He stated that, the pill helps with diagnosis and monitors various types of conditions without needing to admit the patient to a hospital for necessary studies.

Using the pill with device

In recent times, science has developed different ingestible devices. They are easy to operate, since no surgical intervention is required to implant them, as is the case with pacemakers.

The patient must take it like any normal pill. The device included inside a simple pill helps perform colonoscopies. Until now, it was a procedure that was only carried out by admitting the patient to a hospital.

The new pill, called VM, works by monitoring the body’s mini-vibrations associated with breathing and heartbeat. From its location in the digestive tract, it can control when the individual stops breathing, for example, due to apnea.

As a first test, the scientific team placed the pill in the stomachs of sleeping pigs under anesthesia. They were then given an injection of fentanyl to stop them breathing. When there is an overdose of fentanyl in a human, the same thing happens as the result that was achieved in pigs, the person stops breathing.

Next, the team gave the VM pill to human patients who were being treated for sleep apnea. This disorder stops breathing for a few moments when the person is sleeping.

The test was conducted on 10 patients at West Virginia University, who were given the VM pill. The device contained in the pill detected when the patients’ respiratory rate was interrupted and controlled their cardiac activity with an effectiveness of 92.7%.

They were also able to show that the pill is safe, with all patients excreting the device in the days after the test. Until now, the pill settles in the intestine and remains there for a day. Although they schedule longer follow-ups, modifications can be made to prolong the time the ingestible device stays in the body.

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