Pill printed in 3D accurately samples intestine bacteria

3D printed pills that can sample the bacteria found in the human intestine, the so-called microbiome, were created by a group of medical engineers from Tufts University.

Facilitating the process of classification of species of bacteria that exist in our intestines could lead to important steps forward for the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases related to the intestine itself and in general to the digestive system.

It is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that can allow the creation of bacterial populations in the intestines. More than 1000 different species of bacteria have been recognized in our intestines. Currently, in order to carry out this process, it is necessary to analyze DNA and feces, which however provide little information, in particular regarding the local microbiomes of some parts of the intestine.

The pill has already been tested on pigs and primates and of course, the researchers hope to be able to perform tests on humans in the future. The pill boasts several microfluidic channels through which different phases of the gastrointestinal tract can be sampled.

The surface of the pill also boasts a particular coating that is sensitive to pH. This coating allows the pill itself to begin absorbing the first samples only when it enters the small intestine, thus bypassing the stomach. Through a particular structure of internal chambers and a small magnet, it is possible to hold this pill in specific positions of the intestine using a magnet from outside the body.

A special system of fluorescent dyes then allows locating the pill after it has exited the gastrointestinal tract.

“It’s like having an electrocardiogram for bowel health,” says John Widmer, professor of infectious diseases at Tufts and one of the authors of the study that appeared in Advanced Intelligent Systems.