Human trials show sensor can detect gases in gut
January 6, 2018
Findings from the first human trials of a gas-sensing swallowable capsule could change the way that gut disorders and diseases are prevented and diagnosed. The trials by researchers at Australia’s RMIT University have uncovered mechanisms in the human body that have never been seen before, including a potentially new immune system.
The technology and discoveries offer a game-changer for the one-in-five people worldwide who will suffer from a gastrointestinal disorder in their lifetime. They could also lead to fewer invasive procedures such as colonoscopies.
The ingestible capsule – the size of a vitamin pill – detects and measures the gut gases hydrogen, carbon dioxides and oxygen in real time. These data can be sent to a mobile phone.
Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh (pictured), study lead and capsule co-inventor, said the trials showed the human stomach used an oxidiser to fight foreign bodies in the gut.
“We found that the stomach releases oxidising chemicals to break down and beat foreign compounds that are staying in the stomach for longer than usual,” Kalantar-zadeh said. “This could represent a gastric protection system against foreign bodies. Such an immune mechanism has never been reported before.”
Another never before seen observation from the trial was that the colon may contain oxygen.
“Trials showed the presence of high concentrations of oxygen in the colon under an extremely high-fibre diet,” Kalantar-zadeh said. “This contradicts the old belief that the colon is always oxygen free. This new information could help us better understand how debilitating diseases like colon cancer occur.”
The trials were conducted on seven healthy individuals on low- and high-fibre diets. Results showed the capsule accurately showed the onset of food fermentation, highlighting their potential to monitor digestion and normal gut health clinically.
The trials also demonstrated that the capsule could offer a much more effective way of measuring microbiome activities in the stomach, a critical way of determining gut health.
“Previously, we have had to rely on faecal samples or surgery to sample and analyse microbes in the gut,” Kalantar-zadeh said. “But this meant measuring them when they are not a true reflection of the gut microbiota at that time. Our capsule will offer a non-invasive method to measure microbiome activity.”
This could represent a gastric protection system against foreign bodies. Such an immune mechanism has never been reported before.
Now that the capsule has successfully passed human trials, the research team is seeking to commercialise the technology.
“The trials show that the capsules are perfectly safe, with no retention,” said co-inventor Kyle Berean. “Our ingestible sensors offer a potential diagnostic tool for many disorders of the gut from food nutrient malabsorption to colon cancer. It is good news that a less invasive procedure will now be an option for so many people in the future. “We have partnered with Planet Innovation to establish a company called Atmo Biosciences and bring the product to market.”
This will lead to a second phase of human trials, and help raise the funds needed to place this safe gut monitoring and diagnostic device into the hands of patients and medical professionals.
The trials were conducted in collaboration with researchers from Monash University.