Flexible Sensors Can Detect Movement in GI Tract

Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Summary: Researchers have built a flexible ingestible sensor that could be used to monitor food intake and diagnose gastrointestinal slowdown.

Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital designed a flexible ingestible sensor which can be easily rolled up and swallowed. After ingesting the sensor attaches to the stomach wall or the intestinal lining so that it can measure the rhythmic contractions of the digestive tract. These flexible sensors are made up of piezoelectric materials (produce current and voltage when they are mechanically stressed upon) and incorporated with polymer materials with elasticity same as that of human skin. The entire study is published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Piezoelectric sensor

This sensor could make it easier to diagnose digestive disorders. Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In the sensor, electronic circuits are fabricated on a silicon wafer. The circuits contain two electrodes – gold electrode on the top of the piezoelectric material and platinum electrode on the underside. After the circuit is fabricated it is removed from the silicon wafer and printed onto a flexible polymer, polyimide. The size of the ingestible sensor designed for this study is 2 by 2.5 cms. The sensor is tested in pigs which is delivered endoscopically. These type of sensors could help doctors to diagnose gastrointestinal disorders which impair motility of the digestive tract which may result in nausea, gas, constipation and also can measure the food intake in patients suffering from obesity.

Giovanni Traverso, a senior author, said, “Having flexibility has the potential to impart significantly improved safety, simply because it makes it easier to transit through the GI tract.” further added”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.”

Canan Dagdeviren, a lead author, said, “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.”

More Information: Canan Dagdeviren et al, “Flexible piezoelectric devices for gastrointestinal motility sensing”, Nature Biomedical Engineering (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41551-017-0140-7


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