New sensor pill like a "Fitbit" you can swallow to monitor your stomach

Researchers have developed a flexible sensor meant to be rolled up into a dissolvable capsule and swallowed so it can detect gastrointestinal problems and monitor food intake and digestion. The sensor is a 2 x 2.5 centimeter polymer that's printed with electronics, eventually to include wireless radio circuitry. Additional piezoelectric material enables the device to convert the movement from the stomach into enough electrical energy to power itself. The scientists from MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital tested a wired version of the device on pigs. From MIT News:

“For the first time, we showed that a flexible, piezoelectric device can stay in the stomach up to two days without any electrical or mechanical degradation,” (Canan) Dagdeviren says.

This type of sensor could make it easier to diagnose digestive disorders that impair motility of the digestive tract, which can result in difficulty swallowing, nausea, gas, or constipation.

Doctors could also use it to help measure the food intake of patients being treated for obesity. “Having a window into what an individual is actually ingesting at home is helpful, because sometimes it’s difficult for patients to really benchmark themselves and know how much is being consumed,” (Giovanni) Traverso says.

(via IEEE Spectrum)

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Researchers demonstrate edible origami robot

This mouthwatering morsel is an origami robot that once swallowed, unfolds itself in the gut and can be steered by magnets outside the body. According to the MIT researchers, patients may someday swallow similar robots to patch wounds or retrieve foreign objects. In a new test, the robot successfully removed a button battery lodged in a faux stomach and esophagus. Video below! Yum!

From MIT:

...The new robot consists of two layers of structural material sandwiching a material that shrinks when heated. A pattern of slits in the outer layers determines how the robot will fold when the middle layer contracts....

In the center of one of the forward accordion folds is a permanent magnet that responds to changing magnetic fields outside the body, which control the robot’s motion. The forces applied to the robot are principally rotational. A quick rotation will make it spin in place, but a slower rotation will cause it to pivot around one of its fixed feet. In the researchers’ experiments, the robot uses the same magnet to pick up the button battery.

The researchers tested about a dozen different possibilities for the structural material before settling on the type of dried pig intestine used in sausage casings. “We spent a lot of time at Asian markets and the Chinatown market looking for materials,” Li says. The shrinking layer is a biodegradable shrink wrap called Biolefin.

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