In the 1966 film The Fantastic Voyage, a submarine and its crew shrink down to microscopic size and set sail in the body of a stricken scientist to repair his damaged brain. While that’s still the stuff of science fiction, today’s researchers have built a tiny swallowable sensor that can take a voyage through the gut and provide vital information about bowel health. The device is the size of a pill and measures the levels of gases in the intestine, transmitting the data back to a smartphone in real time. Tests have already revealed some surprising new secrets, such as example showing that the stomach releases powerful oxidising chemicals to break down food – something that wasn’t previously known. Although it still needs more work, the device could be a useful tool for monitoring people with gut and digestion problems, or even be used to diagnose diseases such as bowel cancer.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.