Battery-Free Ingestible “Smart Pill” Monitors the Small Intestine

By: | December 9th, 2022

Image Credit UC San Diego

Researchers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have created a self-powered ingestible biosensor for continuously monitoring the intestinal environment. This battery-free, pill-shaped biosensing system will allow the monitoring of gut metabolites in real-time, which wasn’t possible before. At present, doctors have to put a catheter down the patient’s throat for doing this job.

The smart pill measures 2.6 cm in length and 0.9 cm in diameter. However, at present, the pill is tried on pigs, because they have a similar size GI tract to humans. At regular intervals, the pill wirelessly transmits its readings.

“In our experiments, the battery-free biosensor technology continuously monitored glucose levels in the small intestines of pigs 14 hours after ingestion, yielding measurements every five seconds for two to five hours,” said Ernesto De La Paz Andres, one of the co-first authors on the paper. 

This “smart pill” is not only a simpler but also a cheaper way to monitor the small intestine

The smart pill is a combined biosensor and biofuel cell, placed in a 3D-printed polymer shell. The pill helps in continuously measuring glucose levels in the small intestine. In place of a battery, this pill uses the same glucose as fuel. At regular intervals, the pill wirelessly transmits its readings.

Andres added, “Our next step is to reduce the size of the pills from the current 2.6 cm in length so they will be easier for human subjects to swallow.”

The work is published in Nature Communications.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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