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Vibrating Pill, Ingestible Sensor: Mini Robots Treat Gastrointestinal Disorders

A pill that vibrates to relieve constipation, a sensor that can be tracked in the gut — medical researchers are turning to tiny robots to treat or diagnose gastrointestinal disorders.

According to an article posted in the journal Nature Electronics on Monday, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Caltech have developed an ingestible sensor that can be monitored as it travels through the digestive tract. The device, 20 millimeters in length and eight millimeters in diameter, could help physicians diagnose gastrointestinal motion disorders that avert food from moving normally through the digestive tract. The capsule’s location exposes where a slowdown is taking place.

Reports from the research proved that the sensor works by detecting a magnetic field produced by an electromagnetic coil located outside of the body. The sensor could also provide an alternative to invasive procedures such as endoscopy or other diagnostic techniques such as nuclear imaging, X-rays, or catheters.

Daily Vibrant capsules aren’t a cure for chronic constipation, but they were effective in a small clinical trial. Instead of releasing medication, they vibrate to stimulate the colon. (Courtesy: Daily Vibrant)

A doctoral student at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) involved in the development of the ingestible diagnostic sensor Saransh Sharma told AFP “This is a very booming field, “You have medical robots that are so small you can just send them inside a person using the oral passage and they can do a lot of sensing and actuation inside the gut that gives the doctor a lot of the essential information to do a better job in the curing and the diagnosis and the treatment plan.”

Further speaking Sharma mentioned that It has been tested on pigs and the team behind the research hopes to eventually obtain the approval of the US Food and Drug Administration for human clinical trials.

 “If we can demonstrate a device inside large animals like pigs up to a very high confidence, we can say that it will scale very well in human anatomy as well,” Sharma said.

Further into the report from the article, an Israeli company called Vibrant Gastro recently began marketing a vibrating capsule in the U S designed to soothe chronic constipation while the ingestible sensor is still in the development phase.

The drug-free Vibrant capsule which has been approved by FDA is intended for constipation sufferers who have not experienced bowel relief after a month of laxative treatments.

In the third phase of clinical trial of 300 people, parties who got involved in the trial had bowel movements remarkably more frequently than those who took a placebo.

The Vibrant capsule produces gentle vibrations to stimulate the colon and increases the number and frequency of bowel movements, according to the manufacturer.  

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