A variety of gastrointestinal diseases would be treated much effectively if there was somehow a way for clinicians to closely monitor the stomach, in order to keep a tab on its activities and functions. The job is a challenging one, considering any sensor that is dropped in the stomach cannot stay there for a long period of time as the stomach acids eventually expels them out of the body. However, this challenge has been addressed by researchers at MIT. New sensors that can be dropped in the stomach and cannot be pushed out until the patient wants it to come out; has been developed by the researchers.
A combination of hydrogels, a gelatin- like substance and sodium polycrylate, a highly absorbent material; has been used to develop these new devices. The device once swallowed, absorbs water from the stomach and expands to the size of a golf ball from its otherwise size of a pill at the time of intake. Their size doesn’t allow them to be expelled out of the body automatically. In order to expel them, the user needs to intake a solution rich in calcium ions that help shrinking the size of the ball facilitating its movement towards the small intestine.
Thermometers integrated in the hydrogel balls successfully have been tested on laboratory pigs so far. The hydrogel can have different types of sensors integrated in them. In the pig’s case, for almost a month the device successfully tracked the temperature inside the pig’s stomach, however; at the time of exit they had a few problems.