Imagine a time when your stomach could communicate with you through smart phones, informing you of the general healthiness of your own gut. Thanks to the 21st century-science, that moment is here.
Earlier in 2015, Alpha Galileo reported that researchers at RMIT University and Monash University in Australia had designed and produced an advanced gas-sensing capsule,which can travel through our body and relay messages from the intestines to our mobile phone.
Each of these swallowable capsules are loaded with a gas sensor, a microprocessor, and a wireless high-frequency transmitter—all of which in combination will measure the concentrations of intestinal gases. The results of such measurement will then be—amazingly—messaged to our mobile phone.
Sure, this messaging thing is cool, but why in the world would any of us want to know what gases thrive in our stomachs?
The intestinal gases plaguing our stomachs actually have a lot more impact over our long-term health than the average person would predict. Some of these gases, for instance, have been associated with health conditions such as colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease. Therefore, discovering what gases heavily reside in our stomachs is indeed a sensible idea, as it could help us diagnose current or future health conditions and in turn establish preventative measures.
So in short, the capsule is seeking to address a major worldwide health concern, especially with the fact that colorectal cancer being the third most prevalent cancer globally by 2012.
RMIT’s Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, the leading scientist of this initiative, describes on AlphaGalileo that “we know gut microorganisms produce gases as a by-product of their metabolism, but we understand very little about how that affects our health.”
“Thus being able to accurately measure intestinal gases could accelerate our knowledge about how specific gut microorganisms contribute to gastrointestinal disorders and food intake efficiency, enabling the development of new diagnostic techniques and treatments.”
Even more exciting, we can also utilize the information provided by these capsules to learn how certain foods act on our intestines.
“With nearly half of Australia’s population complaining of digestive problems in any 12-month period, this technology could be the simple tool we need to methodically tailor our diets to our individual bodies and improve our digestive health,” Kalantar-zadeh explains.
An example of such digestive problem is the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). According to the National Institutes of Health, IBS impacts 11% of the worldwide population. What this means is that this deceivingly powerful capsule may mediate the stomach problems of any one of the next ten people you see strolling down the street.
For those concerned with safety, animal trials have been conducted and the capsules were deemed to be safe for ingestion. CSIRO—Australia’s national science agency—has even created similar capsules for ruminants—animals that extract nutrients from plant through fermentation in specialized stomachs. Therefore, the main challenge instead for the RMIT and Monash research teams now is to make them even more appropriate for human intestines.
So, what do you think you’ll find in your gut?