Iranian Researcher Creates Gas-Sniffing Capsule Charts, The Digestive Tract

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 - 15:27

An Iranian electrical engineer and a professor at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh has created an ingestible electronic capsule that senses certain gases released in the human gut which has begun revealing secrets about the human gut.

To test the capsule, Kalantar-Zadeh enlisted 26 healthy volunteers – one being himself. Each person ate the same diet to help rule out food as a cause for different results, except for two volunteers who ate a high-fiber diet and two others who got one with little fiber, npr reports.

"We didn't have any problems," he says. But they did notice some oddities. For one, Kalantar-Zadeh says that the pill's data showed some curious oxygen measurements in the stomach. Apparently the stomach was releasing harsh oxidizing chemicals along with typical stomach acid to aid digestion. "It's a very simple phenomenon, but nobody had ever observed it before," he says.

A membrane on the capsule's nose lets gases through to a sensor that detects concentrations of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Kalantar-Zadeh says those three gases were picked because they provide important information about the gut.

By sensing oxygen content, for instance, the pill can figure out where in the gut it's located. Oxygen starts off high in the stomach and drops off throughout the intestines. When the pill senses an oxygen-free environment, it knows that it's finally made it to the colon and soon will exit.

The other two gases give researchers information about the gut microbiome's activity wherever the capsule happens to be in the digestive tract. In this case, carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas are both byproducts of fermentation, a process many bacteria use to digest food and create energy, Kalantar-Zadeh says. "Looking at how fast these gases are produced, where they are produced and what types of gases are produces gives us clear information about the activity of the microbiome," he says.

The researchers are forming a company that will continue clinical testing of the device for efficacy and safety. Kalantar-Zadeh stands to receive a royalty for sales of the capsule. "We're not doing this for profit," he says. "The only thing we want to see is benefit for people."

The results of the testing were published in the journal Nature Electronics.


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