Swallow a smart pill to get a report from your stomach via smartphone

The smart pill. Image: RMIT

Australian scientists have developed a smart pill which, when swallowed, beams back data on the health of your stomach.

It’s all about measuring poorly understood intestinal gases which have been linked to colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

The first animal trials of smart gas sensing pills developed at RMIT University looked at the impact of low and high-fibre diets on intestinal gases.

The results, compiled from data sent by the smart pills to a smartphone, reverse assumptions about the effect of fibre on the gut, according to Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, from the Centre for Advanced Electronics and Sensors at RMIT.

“We found a low-fibre diet produced four times more hydrogen in the small intestine than a high-fibre diet,” says Professor Kalantar-zadeh.

“This was a complete surprise because hydrogen is produced through fermentation, so we naturally expected more fibre would equal more of this fermentation gas.

“The smart pills allow us to identify precisely where the gases are produced and help us understand the microbial activity in these areas. It’s the first step in demolishing the myths of food effects on our body and replacing those myths with hard facts.”

Kalantar-zadeh hopes the technology will help researchers design personalised diets or drugs to help the millions of people worldwide affected by digestive disorders and diseases.

The research, jointly conducted with the Department of Gastroenterology at the Alfred Hospital, Monash University, the University of Melbourne and CSIRO, is published in the January edition of the journal Gastroenterology.

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