The microbiome inside our gut contains a wide variety of bacterial species, some of which are a source of disease. Currently, only the lower intestine can be sampled non-invasively to learn about the bacterial flora within, so there’s actually little knowledge about what goes on higher up the GI tract.
Researchers at Tufts University have now created a swallowable device that can travel the entirety of the digestive system, regularly sampling what’s inside and allowing scientists, and hopefully one day physicians, to better study how intestinal bacteria play a role in various diseases.
The new pill is 3D printed and covered with a coating that only degrades at certain pH levels, allowing it to be protected on the way through the stomach. Inside are helical microfluidic channels separated by a membrane from a calcium salt chamber. The bacteria are pulled by the osmotic effect across the membrane and into the helical channels. In order to better direct in which direction the pill samples, there’s a tiny magnet that can be pulled on externally to orient the pill just how you want it.
So far the device has been tested in pigs and primates and has shown impressive ability to provide high quality samples from the small intestine down. Further studies will have to be performed with humans before the technology can be applied clinically.
Study in journal Advanced Intelligent Systems: Ingestible Osmotic Pill for In‐vivo Sampling of Gut Microbiome
Via: Tufts University