Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Photo of two hands holding a small, pill-shaped sensor.
  • This sensor detects bleeding but could be designed to diagnose other things.
  • Lillie Paquette/MIT
  • A sensor you swallow

    Ingestible low-power sensors can detect gastric bleeding.

    MIT researchers have built an ingestible sensor that can diagnose gastrointestinal problems like bleeding in the stomach—and relay the results to a smartphone.

    To create these sensors, professors Timothy Lu and Anantha Chandrakasan, along with Mark Mimee, PhD ’18, and Phillip Nadeau, SM ’11, PhD ’16, combined engineered bacteria with an electronic chip that can translate the bacterial response into a wireless signal.

    This story is part of the September/October 2018 Issue of the MIT News magazine
    See the rest of the issue
    Subscribe

    For their initial demonstration, which they reported in Science, the researchers focused on bleeding in the GI tract. They engineered a probiotic strain of E. coli to express a genetic circuit that causes the bacteria to emit light when they encounter heme, a component of blood. They then placed the bacteria into four wells of a custom-designed sensor, covering it with a semipermeable membrane that allows small molecules from the surrounding environment to pass through. A phototransistor beneath each well measures the light produced by the bacterial cells and relays the information to a microprocessor that sends a wireless signal to a nearby computer or smartphone. The researchers also built an Android app to analyze the data.

    The sensor, a cylinder about 1.5 inches long, uses a battery that the researchers estimate could power the device for about a month and a half. It could also be powered by a voltaic cell sustained by acidic fluids in the stomach, using technology Nadeau and Chandrakasan developed previously.

    In tests in pigs, the sensor showed that it correctly determined whether any blood was present in the stomach. Today, gastric bleeding is often diagnosed with an endoscopy, which frequently requires sedation. This technology offers a noninvasive alternative.

    AI is here.
    Own what happens next at EmTech Digital 2019.

    Register now
    Photo of two hands holding a small, pill-shaped sensor.
    Next in MIT News
    Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
    • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

      {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

      Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

      See details+

      Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

      Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

      The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

      Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

      10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

      Ad-free website experience

    /3
    You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.