Australian researchers have conducted a human trial that they say illustrated the potential role for electronic-based gas-sensing capsules in understanding aspects of the intestine and its microbiota in health, according to an article published online on Monday in Nature Electronics.
The ingestible sensors used in the trial can sense oxygen, hydrogen and carbon dioxide by using a combination of thermal conductivity and semiconducting sensors, the researchers said, noting that it may offer an accurate and safe tool for monitoring diets or as a diagnostic tool.
"The capsules provide a potentially powerful diagnostic technique, and could offer unique insights into the effects of diet and medical supplements. This might also translate into a monitoring tool that can be used to help develop individualized diets," the researchers wrote.
The use of electronic sensors in pharmaceuticals and tracking patients' health is slowly catching on.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in November approved Otsuka and Proteus Digital Health's Abilify MyCite (aripiprazole tablets with sensor), which features an ingestible sensor embedded in the pill that records that the medication was taken.
The sensor can send a message to a wearable patch that transmits the information to a mobile application so patients can track the ingestion on their smartphone and allow their caregivers and physician to access the information through a web-based portal.
However, the Australian researchers note that to date, there has only been limited development of such ingestible sensor pills.
"Commercial ingestible sensors are currently mainly limited to pH and pressure profilers, medication monitoring tools, and esophageal optical coherence tomography monitoring using tethered capsules," they wrote, noting the potential for gas-sensing capsules.
"The capsule could document inter-individual differences in fermentative patterns, which should be of significant value in the individualization of drug disposition or the use of dietary manipulations," they added, noting that observations found in their trial should be further endorsed using a "much larger number of volunteers."
A human pilot trial of ingestible electronic capsules capable of sensing different gases in the gut