Grab an apple. A smart pill has identified how fiber works in the digestive system. The journal Gastroenterology published a study from RMIT University’s Centre for Advanced Electronics and Sensors in Melbourne, Australia, detailing the first trials of smart pills that can measure intestinal gases inside the body, with surprising results.
Lead investigator Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh says the results reversed current assumptions about the effect of fiber on the gut.
“We found a low-fiber diet produced four times more hydrogen in the small intestine than a high-fiber diet,” Kalantar-zadeh said.
High levels of intestinal gases have been linked to colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but their role in health is not well understood and there is currently no easy and reliable tool for detecting them inside the digestive system. Kalantar-zadeh said the results of his study were surprising because the team expected high-fiber diets to equal fermentation gas. The insight is a result of his work through grants from the university and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. His team is about to begin human tests and the company will be launched in March 2016.
The key to the research is the smart pill, for which Kalantar-zadeh holds several patents. He says the invention is an indigestible electronic device that leaves the body after normal bowel transient.
“The standard OOO sized (comparable with general vitamin tablets) capsule consists of gas and temperature sensors, micro-electronic circuits, small-sized harmless batteries and telecommunication components.”
The capsule is designed to be swallowed by adults to allow accurate measurement of the concentrations and types of intestinal gases in a patient. Intestinal gas profiles are then transmitted to an external hand-held device or smart-phone that allows a real-time data display and analysis for both medical experts and individual users.
Kalantar-zadeh believes that the digital pill will prove to be a valuable tool to provide indepth insight into health patterns, intestinal disorders, diet, and stress on the body. “Many of the microbial communities living within the human gut are necessary for healthy body functionality and conversely some of them cause health problems. The gut microorganisms produce gases as a by-product of their metabolism and activities. These gases are directly associated with the microbiome and unique to the individual.”
Being able to accurately measure intestinal gases, he says, can reveal how specific gut microorganisms contribute to gastrointestinal (GI) disorders and food intake efficiency, enabling the development of new diagnostic techniques and treatments.