An ingestible pill that monitors vital signs

An ingestible pill that monitors vital signs

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A bug which is swallowed and, once it reaches the stomach, is able to communicate with the outside and monitor parameters such as body temperature, heart rate and breathing. It is not part of the script of the latest James Bond or a new one Disturbing journeybut what was achieved a few weeks ago by the US biotech Celero System: an electronic pill – or more precisely a large pill, the size of a couple of centimeters, so to speak – which measures some vital parameters from the inside and reports to the specialists on the outside. Last November the device was tested on a small group of patients (ten, to be precise) suffering from sleep apnea (a disorder characterized by intermittent interruptions in breathing during sleep) and proved to be almost as accurate as polysomnography, specialist exam considered the gold standard for evaluation for the disease, which however is decidedly longer, more complex and expensive, since to carry it out you have to sleep a whole night in a clinic with your body covered in electrodes.

Transforming clinical practice

The “pill” is a biocompatible plastic capsule and contains within it several miniaturized sensors, a microprocessor, a radio antenna and batteries. After ingestion, it travels safely and painlessly throughout the digestive tract, and is naturally expelled from the body a couple of days later; meanwhile it wirelessly sends all the data it collects to an external computer, where it can be consulted by a doctor or the patient themselves. “We have developed a solution that is relatively simple and allows very easy access to patients’ vital signs,” he said Giovanni Traversoone of the co-inventors of the device, associate professor in the department of mechanical energy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Mit) and gastroenterologist al Brigham and Women’s Hospital in an interview with the American magazine Wired. “I think it can transform clinical practice.”

A pill in the mail

One of the next uses of the device, the authors say, could be a sort of “alarm system” for drug overdoses. In people intoxicated by fentanyl, for example, a slowing of breathing is often observed which can sometimes be fatal: having a device that monitors it and launches an alert in real time could ensure that the person is rescued promptly so that the respiratory crisis is resolved. But the prospects are even broader. The electronic pill, for example, could be sent by the doctor to the patient and used to remotely identify events that do not always occur during visits or hospitalizations, as happens to asthma patients, to those who suffer from heart problems such as vagal atrial fibrillation or those suffering from neuromuscular disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It will certainly take many studies and a relatively long period of time to evaluate all these possibilities; in the meantime, the idea of ​​the inventors of the device is to bring a first version of the pill to the market within the next two years.

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