The details of what goes on within the GI tract are still largely unknown to medical science. Bacteria come in a huge variety and the microbiome within the gut can be radically different from place to place. To better understand the bacterial composition of the human GI tract, researchers at Purdue University have developed a 3D printed ingestable capsule that can capture samples throughout the gut and safely transport these outside the body for testing.
The technology consists of a resin pill-like device that has a pH sensitive tip. When the capsule reaches an area of the gut with the appropriate pH level, the cap dissolves and allows intestinal fluid to come in. Inside, a hydrogel aborbs the liquid and expands. This expansion causes a plug to push against the opening where the cap was and seals off the capsule. Once excreted, the capsule can be unscrewed and the sample removed using a pair of tweezers.
There’s nothing expensive that’s required to make such capsules and the researchers believe that each one can be manufactured for only about a dollar.
The next steps will involve testing the devices in live porcine models and developing a prototype that is more suited for human applications.
Here’s Rahim Rahimi, the professor leading this project, explaining the workings of the capsule his team developed:
Study in RSC Advances: Smart capsule for non-invasive sampling and studying of the gastrointestinal microbiome