The human digestive system includes a large number of different organs involved in the process of producing and delivering nutrients to the body. This is why there is also a wide range of possible digestive diseases. Many of these conditions require endoscopic examination, which involves inserting a tube into the body with a lens and camera. And in addition to the added cost of this intervention, there are variously associated discomforts. Now, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the USA, has developed a biosensor able to monitor or explore the digestive tract to detect digestive diseases.
The biosensor, as small as a pill, can diagnose digestive diseases based on bacterial responses
A group of researchers from MIT has developed a biosensor equipped with genetically modified bacteria that can diagnose digestive diseases, such as stomach bleeding or other problems. This new diagnosis method is as simple as taking a pill.
To make these bacteria more useful for digital applications, the MIT team also decided to combine them with an electronic chip that could translate the bacterial responses into a detectable and visible wireless signal for mobile devices.
“Our idea was to pack bacterial cells into a device,” says one of the scientists in charge of the project, Phillip Nadeau. “The cells will catch them and accompany the device on its journey through the stomach.”
The characteristics and dimensions of the device are designed to facilitate its oral consumption
The device is approximately 3.5 centimeters long and requires approximately 13 micro-watts of power. Scientists equipped the sensor with a 2.7-volt battery, which they estimate could power the device for nearly two months of continuous use.
“By combining engineered biological sensors with low-power wireless electronics, we can detect biological signals in the body almost in real time, which will allow new diagnostic capabilities for human health applications,” explains Timothy Lu, one of the team’s scientists.
The biosensor is still under development and scientists hope it will be successfully tested in humans for detecting digestive disorders via bacterial responses.