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New capsule-sensor will help people assess their gut health without surgery or colonoscopy

Posted January 14, 2018

Colonoscopy is extremely invasive, unpleasant and yet very necessary procedure. It helps thousands of people suffering from gastrointestinal disorder, allows diagnosing colon cancer and other diseases. But now scientists from RMIT University have revealed some mechanisms in human body, related to gastric gases – this discovery may lead to swallowable sensor capsules, deeming colonoscopies unnecessary for many people.

The capsule is easy to swallow – it is about the size of some vitamin pills. Image credit: Peter Clarke/RMIT University

About one in five people will suffer from gastrointestinal disorder in their lifetime. The capsule sensor that scientists have just created is easy to swallow (it’s about the size of a vitamin pill). It senses gut gases, such as hydrogen, carbon dioxides and oxygen, in real time and sends this data to a smartphone. Scientists have discovered a very interesting immune mechanism that was never described before – to get rid of foreign compounds that are staying in the stomach for too long, human body releases oxidising chemicals. Scientists also found that colon may contain oxygen – something also never seen before.

The conventional belief is that colon is always oxygen free. In fact, this has been confirmed by a number of studies. However, now scientists have observed a high concentration of oxygen in the colon under an extremely high-fibre diet. This information is extremely important in scientific efforts to understand human body better as well as uncover mechanism of such debilitating diseases as colon cancer. And so the capsule-sensor is also very important – it was already tested on seven healthy individuals on low- and high-fibre diets. Initial tests showed that the sensor accurately assesses the data of food fermentation, highlighting their potential to clinically monitor digestion and normal gut health. It was also noted that the capsule could offer a new way of measuring microbiome activities in the stomach.

And so, scientists say that some colonoscopies could be avoided. But also in some cases this capsule could be used instead of a surgery, which is currently used to monitor microbiome activities in the stomach. Trials showed that the capsule is both safe and accurate as a medical instrument and so scientists will now move onto commercializing stage. Dr Kyle Berean, co-inventor of the capsule, said: “Our ingestible sensors offer a potential diagnostic tool for many disorders of the gut from food nutrient malabsorption to colon cancer. It is good news that a less invasive procedure will now be an option for so many people in the future”.

Of course, before it could be put to real life application, some further testing will be needed. But crucial information is already known – it is perfectly safe, accurate and non-invasive. It will allow thousands of people to check their health without invasive methods.


Source: RMIT University

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