Tuesday August 21, 2018
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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
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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)

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Heart Attack Patients Get Safer, Faster Lab Scores That Diagnose Diseases

Within one month of the emergency department visits, 727 heart attacks or deaths in patients occurred.

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heart attack
Faster, safer lab score to diagnose heart attacks developed. Pexels

Researchers have developed a simple laboratory score which is safer and faster at diagnosing patients who visit the emergency department with heart attack symptoms.

The findings, published in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), suggest that the score can also identify patients at risk of subsequent heart issues after discharge.

“We have developed a simple lab score that is superior to using cardiac troponin alone for the identification of patients at low and high risk for heart attack or death at emergency department presentation,” said co-author Peter Kavsak from the McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

“This lab score may reduce both the number of blood tests and the time spent in the emergency department for chest pain patients,” Andrew Worster, Professor at the varsity, said.

The team combined common laboratory blood tests available at several hospitals around the world to create a single laboratory score. Pixabay
The team combined common laboratory blood tests available at several hospitals around the world to create a single laboratory score. Pixabay

For the study, the team combined common laboratory blood tests available at several hospitals around the world to create a single laboratory score or clinical chemistry score, to diagnose a heart attack.

These blood tests are part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of essential in vitro diagnostic tests for health care facilities with clinical laboratories.

The researchers validated the clinical chemistry score as a predictor of heart attacks or deaths within 30 days, using the data on 4,245 patients from emergency department studies in four countries — Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany.

Within one month of the emergency department visits, 727 heart attacks or deaths in patients occurred.

blood tests are part of the World Health Organization's (WHO) list of essential in vitro diagnostic tests for health care facilities with clinical laboratories.
blood tests are part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of essential in vitro diagnostic tests for health care facilities with clinical laboratories. Pixabay

A negative (or low-risk) clinical chemistry score at emergency department presentation missed only one of these events compared with up to 25 missed heart attacks or deaths when using a high-sensitivity cardiac troponin test alone.

Also Read: Microsoft, Apollo Hospitals to use AI for Cardiac Diseases

A positive (or high-risk) clinical chemistry score also identified about 75 per cent of the patients at high risk of heart attacks or deaths when positive compared with a low of 40 per cent detected when the high-sensitivity cardiac troponin test alone was positive.

The researchers suggest the score can be useful for standardising diagnoses and improving safety. (IANS)