RMIT researchers are testing a high-tech pill that measures gastrointestinal gas.

The team hopes the device can revolutionise the prevention and diagnosis of gut disorders and diseases, something that affects one in five people, though about 30 per cent of patients remain undiagnosed.

The ingestible technology has demonstrated several thousand -times more sensitivity to gut gases than alternative techniques.

“Currently, one of the only methods for diagnosing gut disorders, such as mal-absorption of carbohydrates, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammable bowel disease, is to measure hydrogen concentrations in the breath,” the pills’ co-inventor Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh said.

“However, breath tests are mired by a lack of sensitivity and specificity and are unable to provide the necessary gold standard for diagnosis.”

Co-inventor Dr Kyle Berean said: “Ingestible sensors also offer a reliable diagnostic tool for colon cancer, meaning that people won’t have to undergo colonoscopies in future.”  

The researchers say the initial human trials proved the technology is safe.

“Smart pills are harmless and there is no risk of capsule retention,” Berean said.

The capsules can even link with smartphones, to give doctors and patients easily-accessible results.

The potential applications are profound.

“The sensors allow us to measure all the fluids and gases in the gut giving us a multidimensional picture of the human body,” Kalantar-zadeh said.

“Gas sensing is just the beginning.”           

Results from the latest study have been published in ACS Sensors.