NOV 22, 2023 7:04 AM PST

An Ingestible Monitoring Device Enters Clinical Trials

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

It's not that difficult to measure a person's vital signs, if they are close to the right equipment. But that can be a challenge for many people, and it's particularly difficult to get constant readings when people are not hospitalized. But a new ingestible device could provide unprecedented access to a person's physiological data. This work has been reported in the journal Device, and this tool will soon enter clinical trials.

Ali Rezai, MD, holds the Celero VM Pill / Image credit: WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute / License: CC BY-SA

"The ability to facilitate diagnosis and monitor many conditions without having to go into a hospital can provide patients with easier access to health care and support treatment," said first study author and gastroenterologist Giovanni Traverso, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This is hardly the first ingestible device to be created for monitoring health conditions. Pill-sized cameras, for example, are sometimes used in place of traditional colonoscopies.

"The idea of using an ingestible device is that a physician can prescribe these capsules, and all the patient needs to do is to swallow it," said study co-author Benjamin Pless, the founder of Celero Systems, a Massachusetts-based medical device developer. "People are accustomed to taking pills, and costs of using ingestible devices are much more affordable than performing traditional medical procedures."

The device, called VM Pill (for vitals-monitoring pill), utilizes the vibrations that the body generates from a beating heart, or while breathing. The pill can tell when the heart stops beating, and it could be a life-saving tool for people who abuse opioids.

The investigators tested the device in a pig model. When the pigs were anesthetized and then exposed to enough fentanyl to stop them from breathing, the device sent an alert to the researchers, who then reversed the overdose.

The monitor was also used for the first time in humans to check for sleep apnea. The heart repeatedly stops and starts again during sleep apnea, and people often have no idea because they are asleep when it happens. The disorder can only be diagnosed when people spend time in a laboratory that can monitor their conditions as they slumber.

This device was able to detect the cessation of breathing with 92.7 percent accuracy in a small study of ten patients, and was 96 percent accurate when compared to machines that are traditionally used to monitor vital signs.

The device was also safe to use, and was easily excreted within about one day. It may also be possible to make some modifications to the device so that it will stay in place for a bit longer, suggested the researchers. It could one day also deliver drugs that can stop an overdose if one is detected.

"In the future, there are many situations, including opioid overdose and other respiratory and cardiac conditions, that could certainly benefit from this ingestible device," added Traverso.

Sources: Cell Press, Device

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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