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Ingestible Pill-Sized Device Safely Monitors Vital Signs from Within Patient’s GI Tract

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 22 Nov 2023
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Image: VMPill shown in a clear gel capsule for ease of visualization of internal components (Photo courtesy of Ben Pless)
Image: VMPill shown in a clear gel capsule for ease of visualization of internal components (Photo courtesy of Ben Pless)

In recent years, scientists have made significant strides in developing a range of ingestible devices. These devices, unlike implantable ones such as pacemakers, offer ease of use without the need for surgical procedures. An example of this technology in action is the use of pill-sized cameras for non-invasive colonoscopies. Building upon this concept, scientists have now introduced an innovative ingestible device designed to monitor vital signs like heart rate and breathing from within the body. This device shows potential for offering convenient care for individuals at risk of opioid overdose.

Created by Celero Systems (Lincoln, MA, USA), the vitals-monitoring pill (VM Pill) functions by detecting the subtle vibrations produced by heartbeat and respiratory movements. It is especially useful in identifying breathing cessation, a critical condition often associated with opioid overdoses, from within the digestive tract. To validate the effectiveness of the VM Pill, it was tested in anesthetized pigs. The pigs received a dose of fentanyl to simulate the conditions of an overdose, causing them to stop breathing. Remarkably, the pill successfully monitored the pigs' breathing rates in real-time, allowing researchers to intervene and reverse the overdose effects.

The VM Pill was also trialed in humans for the first time with individuals undergoing sleep apnea evaluations. It effectively detected pauses in breathing and tracked respiration rates with a 92.7% accuracy rate. When compared to external monitoring devices, this pill showed at least 96% accuracy in heart rate monitoring. The trials confirmed the pill's safety, with participants naturally excreting the device within a few days post-experiment. Currently, the VM Pill is designed to pass through the body in about a day, but future enhancements aim to extend its duration in the body for more prolonged monitoring. Additionally, there are plans to upgrade the pill to automatically administer medication in response to detected conditions like opioid overdose.

“The idea of using an ingestible device is that a physician can prescribe these capsules, and all the patient needs to do is to swallow it,” said Benjamin Pless, the founder of Celero Systems. “People are accustomed to taking pills, and costs of using ingestible devices are much more affordable than performing traditional medical procedures.”

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