Tuesday April 23, 2019
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From Radio Signals A Pill Could Tell About Gut Health And Help Doctors

Scientists developed a swallowable capsule to detect bleeding in the digestive tract.

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MIT engineers have designed an ingestable sensor with bacteria programmed to sense environmental conditions and relay the information to an electronic circuit.
MIT engineers have designed an ingestable sensor with bacteria programmed to sense environmental conditions and relay the information to an electronic circuit. VOA

A pill could soon radio signals from inside your gut to help doctors diagnose diseases from ulcers to cancer to inflammation, according to a new study.

Scientists have developed a small, swallowable capsule that mixes synthetic biology and electronics to detect bleeding in the digestive tract.

The system can be adapted for a wide range of medical, environmental and other uses, the researchers say.

The biological part of the pill uses bacteria engineered to glow when exposed to heme, the iron-containing molecule in blood.

The electronic side includes a tiny light detector, computer, chip, battery, and a transmitter that sends data to a cell phone or computer.

“A major challenge for sensing in the GI tract is, the space available for a device is very limited,” said Massachusetts Institute of Technology electrical engineer Phillip Nadeau.

Using very low-power electronics they designed, Nadeau and colleagues fit all the components into a capsule about 3 centimeters long by 1 centimeter wide.

A Microbiologist scientist
A Microbiologist scientist, Pixabay

It’s still a bit big to swallow. But Nadeau says with engineering work it can likely be made about a third that size.

The engineered bacteria are contained in chambers covered by a membrane that lets small molecules in but does not let the organisms out. The researchers say the bacteria can be engineered to die if they accidentally leak from the capsule. Or future models may just use the key enzymes, rather than whole bacteria.

In laboratory tests, the pill successfully distinguished pigs fed small amounts of blood from those not given blood. The capsule has not yet been tested on humans. The team aims to do so in the next year or two.

Since the components are all fairly cheap to manufacture, the researchers speculate that the cost would be in the range of tens to hundreds of dollars.

And they say the same platform could be used to detect markers of a range of illnesses. Or, it could be used to sense chemicals in the environment.

“It’s really exciting, and I think it’s got a lot of legs,” said Rice University bioengineer Jeff Tabor, who was not part of the research team.

But Tabor notes that the sensors may need to be much more sensitive than what was used in the pig tests. He says there may be much less blood in the guts of actual patients than what the pigs were given. Other conditions may have the same limitations.

Also read: One shot Nanoparticle Vaccine polio

“For many actual diseases, you might have far less of the molecule that you need to sense available to you,” he added. (VOA)

Next Story

Now The Hackers May Want To Crack Down What You Stream on Netflix

While Netflix contended that carrying out such an attack would not be easy as it requires access to network traffic for analysis, the IIT Madras researchers pointed out that tricking users into connecting to rogue routers or access points is quite possible for hackers.

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Netflix
"I work on analysis of encrypted network traffic, and when we stumbled upon this Netflix movie Bandersnatch it was something very new," Gargi Mitra, a PhD student at IIT Madras was quoted as saying by the WIRED. Pixabay

Despite Netflix’s move to encrypt all its video streams in order to better protect user privacy, hackers may still get to know what interactive content you watch on the popular streaming service, new research from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras suggests.

The researchers said that they can analyse Netflix’s encrypted interactive video traffic to find clues about the viewing habits of users, and which choices they have made in their movie journeys, the WIRED reported on Sunday.

Netflix
Analysing the choices that 100 viewers made, the researchers were able to determine the decisions correctly 96 per cent of the time, the report said Pixabay

The interactive content on Netflix allows users to make choices for the characters and shape the story. Each choice leads to a different adventure, so users can watch again and again, and see a new story each time. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and You vs. Wild are some of the interactive titles that Netflix has.

“I work on analysis of encrypted network traffic, and when we stumbled upon this Netflix movie Bandersnatch it was something very new,” Gargi Mitra, a PhD student at IIT Madras was quoted as saying by the WIRED.

hacking
The researchers said that they can analyse Netflix’s encrypted interactive video traffic to find clues about the viewing habits of users, and which choices they have made in their movie journeys, the WIRED reported on Sunday. Pixabay

“But when I was looking at the choice-making interactions it turned out that they are similar to other kinds of interactions in web applications and web sites I study. So I tried out some of my techniques and we were able to determine which options the viewer chooses,” Mitra added.

Also Read: Research Reveals, Cancer Patients Are More Likely To Use Marijuana
While Netflix contended that carrying out such an attack would not be easy as it requires access to network traffic for analysis, the IIT Madras researchers pointed out that tricking users into connecting to rogue routers or access points is quite possible for hackers.

Analysing the choices that 100 viewers made, the researchers were able to determine the decisions correctly 96 per cent of the time, the report said. (IANS)