by Photo courtesy of UC San Diego

UC San Diego researchers developed a battery-free ingestible sensor system for continuous intestinal environment monitoring. 

With this pill-shaped, bio-fuel-driven monitoring device, researchers will be able to monitor gut metabolites in the small intestine in real time, according to UCSD. The work is published in the December issue of the journal Nature Communications.

“In our experiments, the battery-free biosensor technology continuously monitored glucose levels in the small intestines of pigs 14 hours after ingestion, yielding measurements every five seconds for two to five hours,” Ernesto De La Paz Andres, a nanoengineering graduate student at UC San Diego and one of the co-first authors on the paper said in a statement. “Our next step is to reduce the size of the pills from the current 2.6 cm in length so they will be easier for human subjects to swallow.” 

The university notes that older methods for directly monitoring the small intestine caused “significant discomfort for patients” while generating only single short data recordings of an environment that continuously changes.

With the sensor that is powered by a non-toxic fuel cell that runs on glucose, scientists will receive continuous data readings in a way that is simpler and could lead to cost savings in the future. 

The project is a UC San Diego cross-campus collaboration involving researchers from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the Department of Nanoengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering; the UC San Diego Center for Wearable Sensors; the UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation; the Division of Gastroenterology at UC San Diego Health; and the VA San Diego Healthcare System. 


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