Intestinal microbiome, medical concept
Credit: Dr_Microbe/ iStock

Two sophisticated pills can provide a window into the condition of the digestive tract, potentially helping to personalized necessary treatments without resorting to invasive hospital tests.

An AI-enabled ingestible pill used with wearable electronics can map gas levels in the gut and is described by Yasser Khan, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Southern California in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science.

Another pill that enables the microbiome of the small intestine to be sampled for the first time is outlined in a pre-clinical study by Sameer Sonkusale, PhD, and co-workers at Tufts University in the journal Device.

Sonkusale told Inside Precision Medicine that, given the significance of this microbiome in key aspects of health and disease, its analysis could predict how patients would respond to a given treatment.

“This can help alter dose or change treatment plan, enabling personalized and precision medicine,” he explained.

“By stratifying patients that will respond to treatment based on their small intestinal microbiome, it also has the potential to improve the success rates of clinical trials.”

The pill devices have a soft elastic exterior with sidewall inlets, which are triggered to open by pH levels in the small intestine environment. Elastic microvalves close the inlets once the intestinal microbiome content has been collected. [Sameer Sonkusale, Tufts University Nano Lab]
The 3D printed pill has a soft, elastic exterior with sidewall inlets that are triggered by the pH of the small intestine. Elastic microvalves with swellable polyacrylate beads then close the inlets once the intestinal contents has been collected.

The distinctive self-closing mechanism automatically locks the pill, preventing contamination from the microbiome of the colon.

The pill’s functionality was characterized in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo and animal studies indicated that the pill contents closely resembled bacterial populations recovered postmortem.

Compared with microbiota in feces, which is currently often used as a sampling method, those collected using the ingestible device were more diverse and had lower bacterial concentrations.

A wearable system that can locate ingestibles in the gut with millimeter resolution. [Khan Lab at USC]
The AI-based system for measuring gastrointestinal gas comprises a different system that includes an ingestible combined with wearable coils that leverage magnetic fields.

The 3D localization and assessment of this gas could be useful for the diagnosis and continuous monitoring of conditions such as irritable bowel disease, Khan and team notes.

It offers an alternative to current methods such as flatus and intestinal tube collection, or indirect methods that include breath tests and stool samples.

The system was able to offer mm-scale resolution for gases along the gastrointestinal tract and optoelectronic gas sensors were able to measure oxygen at concentrations of 0–20% and ammonia samples at the 0–100 ppm concentration range.

The ammonia measurements can serve as a proxy for identifying the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which is linked with peptic ulcers, gastritis, and gastric cancers, the authors noted.

“Overall, the goal of this work is to empower patients to conveniently and accurately assess their GI gas profiles from the comfort of their homes,” the authors added.

“By offering a non-invasive and user-friendly solution, this technology has the potential to revolutionize the management of digestive health, enabling individuals to take a more proactive role in their well-being.”

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