MIT is testing a new ingestible sensor that records your breathing through your intestines. The “smart capsule” is designed to monitor vital signs and even detect opiate overdose.
The “smart capsule” you swallow
MIT researchers have developed an ingestible capsule that can monitor vital signs, including heart rate and breathing patterns, from inside a patient’s gastrointestinal tract. The scientists also say the new device also has the potential to be used to detect signs of respiratory depression during an opioid overdose. Giovanni Traverso, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT who has worked on developing a range of ingestible sensors, told Engadget that the device will be particularly useful for sleep studies.
Conventionally, sleep studies require patients to be connected to an array of sensors and devices. In labs and home studies, sensors can be attached to a patient’s scalp, temples, chest, and lungs. A patient may also wear a nasal cannula, a chest strap, and a pulse oximeter that can connect to a portable monitor.
“As you can imagine, trying to sleep with all these devices can be a challenge,” Traverso told Engadget.
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This study, which used a capsule made by Celero Systems—a start-up led by MIT and Harvard researchers—marks the first time the ingestible sensor technology has been tested on humans. In addition to the startup and MIT, the research was led by experts from West Virginia University and other hospital affiliates.
How it works
The capsule contains two small batteries and a wireless antenna that transmits data. The ingestible sensor, which is about the size of a vitamin capsule, traveled through the gastrointestinal tract and collected signals from the device while it was in the stomach. Participants stayed in a lab overnight while the device recorded their breathing, heart rate, temperature and gastric motility.
The sensor was also able to detect sleep apnea in one of the patients during the trial. The findings suggest that the ingestible substance was able to measure health metrics on par with medical-grade sleep center diagnostic equipment. Traditionally, patients to be diagnosed with specific sleep disorders must stay overnight in a sleep lab, where they are connected to a series of sensors and devices. Ingestible sensor technology eliminates the need for this.
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