Gut reaction: Smart pill smells out the body's fiber factor
May 1, 2016
This post is reprinted from materials provided by RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia on Feb. 1, 2016
Researchers have conducted the first ever trials of smart pills that can measure intestinal gases inside the body, with surprising results revealing some unexpected ways that fibre affects the gut.
Intestinal gases have been linked to colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but their role in health is poorly understood and there is currently no easy and reliable tool for detecting them inside the gut.
The first animal trials of smart gas sensing pills developed at RMIT University – which can send data from inside the gut directly to a mobile phone – have examined the impact of low and high-fibre diets on intestinal gases and offer new clues for the development of treatments for gut disorders.
Lead investigator Professor Kourosh KalantarZadeh, from the Centre for Advanced Electronics and Sensors, said the results reversed current assumptions about the effect of fibre on the gut.
“We found a low-fibre diet produced four times more hydrogen in the small intestine than a high-fibre diet,” KalantarZadeh said.
“This was a complete surprise because hydrogen is produced through fermentation, so we naturally expected more fibre would equal more of this fermentation gas.
“The smart pills allow us to identify precisely where the gases are produced and help us understand the microbial activity in these areas – it’s the first step in demolishing the myths of food effects on our body and replacing those myths with hard facts.
“We hope this technology will in future enable researchers to design personalised diets or drugs that can efficiently target problem areas in the gut, to help the millions of people worldwide that are affected by digestive disorders and diseases.”
The trials revealed different levels of fibre in a diet affected both how much gas was produced and where it was concentrated in the gut – in the stomach, small intestine or large intestine.
The smart pills were trialled on two groups of pigs – whose digestive systems are similar to humans – fed high and low-fibre diets. The results indicate the technology could help doctors differentiate gut disorders such as IBS, showing:
1.Kourosh KalantarZadeh, Chu K. Yao, Kyle J. Berean, Nam Ha, Jian Zhen Ou, Stephanie A. Ward, Naresh Pillai, Julian Hill, Jeremy J. Cottrell, Frank R. Dunshea, Chris McSweeney, Jane G. Muir, Peter R. Gibson. Intestinal Gas Capsules: A Proof-of-Concept Demonstration. Gastroenterology, 2016; 150 (1): 37 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2015.07.072