Ingestible Intelligence: The SmartPill

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Technology is advancing at a rapid pace in all studies of medicine and, luckily for all, those with gastrointestinal problems (most specifically that flatulent guy who always winds up sitting next to you at the movies) have not been forgotten.  Yes, the scientists at SmartPill have created, you guessed it, the Smart Pill.  The pill is designed to transmit data from within the GI tract back to a receiving station, giving doctors a real-time and non-invasive way of measuring health.  Well, at least the pill goes with the flow of traffic, not against it.

Good news, it's not a suppository
Good news, it's not a suppository

The one-time use Smart Pill is ingested by the patient in a doctor’s office.  A data receiver is worn by the patient, or kept within at least five feet, while the pill naturally passes through the body.  The pill is capable of transmitting data continuously for up to 72 hours, including pressure, pH and temperature.  Connecting the data recorder to a PC will allow doctors to figure out residence times in each area of the GI tract as well as pressure contraction patterns, which may indicate signs of GI issues.

This valuable tool is part of the beginning of the body 2.0 revolution, a continuous monitoring of all systems within the body that will alert the patient at the first signs of malady.  On top of that, the data collected from millions of users would be put in a database for all others to see, creating a free, open source information system similar to the Personal Genome Project.  The true body 2.0 may be a ways off in the future, but the Smart Pill is available now and may already be in the local GI specialist’s collection already.  Such a simple and painless way of monitoring the body for wellness will make it the process much easier for both doctors and patients.

While the GI tract is a bit of an easy one to measure (it’s a linear system, from in to out), it is possible that data-gatherers for other systems may soon follow.  Perhaps scientists could use the same principles to measure breathing for asthmatic patients, alerting them to the best time to take medication or even administering it automatically.  Similarly, the insulin pump, which works to monitor glucose levels in the body and inject insulin as needed, has been common practice for patients with Type 1 diabetes for quite some time.

Humans have begun to follow the path to body 2.0, and the next step is to create less invasive permanent solutions.  The Smart Pill only stays in the body for a three day maximum at a time (it depends on the patient’s evacuation time), which is great for a routine check-up at the doctor’s office, but what about a chronic patient who needs constant monitoring?  Perhaps taking a pill every few days is not much of a chore, but it would be significantly better to have real-time data all the time that can be analyzed automatically and warn a patient as necessary.

Body 2.0 has not yet arrived, but medical breakthroughs like the Smart Pill are slowly building the practice of medicine up to that point.  Will diseases be eradicated and people live forever due to this magic meld of man and machine?  Either way, humanity will be closer to that utopian goal than it ever has before.  Body 2.0 is certainly in the near future and, when that revolution happens, early detection of diseases and constant monitoring of disorders will lead to a better survival rate and better quality of life for those who suffer.

Andrew is a recent graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, MA with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. While at Northeastern, he worked on a Department of Defense project intended to create a product that adsorbs and destroys toxic nerve agents and also worked as part of a consulting firm in the fields of battery technology, corrosion analysis, vehicle rollover analysis, and...

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