MIT scientists designed an ingestible pill that swells into a certain shape and stays inside the stomach for about a month to monitor stomach ulcers and cancers of the body.
The researchers embedded a sensor inside the pill that helps in continuous tracking of the stomach’s temperature for about a month. The novel pill has hydrogel-based design, which is softer, more biocompatible, and longer-lasting than current ingestible sensors. The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications in February 2019.
Moreover, if the patient needs to remove the pill from the stomach, this can be done by drinking a solution of calcium that triggers the pill to quickly shrink to its original size and pass safely out of the body. The combination enables the pill to quickly swell in the stomach while remaining impervious to the stomach's churning acidic environment.
Xuanhe Zhao, associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and lead researcher of the study, said: “The dream is to have a Jell-O-like smart pill, which once swallowed stays in the stomach and monitors the patient's health for a long time such as a month.”
The team designed the pill inspired by pufferfish, which quickly inflate when threatened by swallowing large amount of water. The design they finalized resembled a tiny Jell-O-like capsule, made from two hydrogel materials. It is composed of sodium polyacrylate -- superabsorbent particles that are used in commercial products such as diapers for their ability to rapidly soak up liquid and inflate.
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