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From human gut to the smartphone, new health monitoring

The reason for studying gasses in the human gut is because intestinal gases can reveal information relating to the risk of developing, or the associated symptoms of, colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. For this reason medical technologists think that monitoring gasses could work as key biomarkers for assessing such diseases.

Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), consisting of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are important diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and are associated with a high degree of patient ill-health as well as medical costs.

The new, swallowable capsules have been designed by RMIT University and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. A key feature is that the capsules are non-invasive and they give the results instantly, with a signal transmitted to a smartphone. The capsules consist of an built-in gas sensor, microprocessor and wireless high-frequency transmitter

Many infectious bacteria produce certain types of gas and the sensors within the capsules can detect these metabolites. For example, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is symptomatic to suffering from chronic diarrhea, weight loss, and malabsorption

A further application of the research is to see how certain types of food affect the gut and the microbial population within it.

The capsules have been successfully tested in animal studies. The next step is to trial them out in human studies.

The invention has been reported to the journal Trends in Biotechnology and the associated research paper is called “Human intestinal gas measurement systems: in vitro fermentation and gas capsules.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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