The digestive system of humans encompasses a large number of different organs that participate in the process of producing and administering nutrients to the body. That is why there is also a wide range of possible gastrointestinal diseases. Many of these conditions require endoscopic exploration, which involves the introduction of a tube inside the body with a lens and a camera. And in addition to the added cost of this intervention, there are different associated discomforts. Now, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge (USA) has developed a new way of monitoring or exploring the digestive tract that could save many of these problems.
A group of researchers from the entity has developed a sensor equipped with genetically modified bacteria that can diagnose digestive disorders, such as stomach bleeding or other problems, through the ingestion of a pill.
In order for these bacteria to be more useful for applications in the digital world, the MIT team also decided to combine them with an electronic chip that could translate the bacterial response into a detectable and visible wireless signal for our mobile device.
"Our idea was to package bacterial cells inside a device," says one of the scientists in charge of the project, Phillip Nadeau. "The cells will trap them and accompany the device in its journey through the stomach."
The characteristics and dimensions of the device are designed to facilitate oral consumption. It is a cylinder about 3.5 centimeters long, which requires about 13 microwatts of power. The scientists equipped the sensor with a 2.7-volt battery, which they estimate could power the device for almost two months of continuous use.
According to one of the team's scientists, Timothy Lu, "by combining biological engineering sensors together with low-power wireless electronics, we can detect biological signals in the body almost in real time, which will allow new diagnostic capabilities for health human applications. "
Wireless communication and diagnosis
In the last decade, biologists have made great strides in bacterial engineering to respond to stimuli such as environmental contaminants or disease markers. These bacteria can be designed for things like emitting light when they detect the target stimulus, but specialized laboratory equipment is usually required to measure this response.
For the development of the sensor, the researchers tested its effectiveness in pigs and showed that it could be checked effectively if there was blood present in the stomach. According to experts, this type of sensor could be implemented for a single use, remaining in the digestive tract for several days or weeks, sending continuous signals to a device.
"The objective with this sensor is that you can avoid an unnecessary and annoying procedure such as endoscopy with only taking a capsule, and in a relatively short period of time, know if there is a hemorrhage," they say.
To facilitate the patient's use of this technology, the researchers plan to reduce the size of the sensor and study the exact time that the bacterial cells can survive in the digestive tract. They also hope to develop sensors for gastrointestinal conditions that are not hemorrhagic in nature.