Pill-shaped biosensor keeps track of gut metabolites in real time

Pill-shaped biosensor keeps track of gut metabolites in real time

Looking to keep track of your gut health in real-time? A new pill-shaped biosensor may be able to help.


The sensor, which is about the size of a pea, can measure metabolites in the gastrointestinal tract and send the data to a wearable device. The hope is that the technology will eventually be able to detect problems like inflammation or nutrient deficiencies early on. So far, the sensor has been tested in pigs (which have a similar size GI tract to humans) and seems to be safe and effective. Stay tuned for more updates on this promising new technology!

Pill-shaped biofuel-driven sensor that keeps track of gut metabolites in real time

Bioengineers have recently developed a biofuel-driven sensor that could revolutionize the way we track our gastrointestinal health.

The sensor was created by engineers at the University of California San Diego and appears in this months Nature Communications.

The ingestible pill-shaped sensor is small enough to be swallowed and it carries a biofuel-driven component that provides continuous results as it moves through the digestive system.

The biofuel-driven sensor works by using electrodes to measure metabolites — small molecules involved in metabolic processes — found in the gut. As this pill passes through the gastrointestinal tract, it can capture detailed information about gut microbes and provide instantaneous feedback on a person’s overall health. While traditional methods of monitoring gut health involve one-time tests or colonoscopies, this new device offers real-time tracking capabilities and insights. By introducing a biofuel-driven sensing system for continuous monitoring of dietary factors and microbiota composition in the gut, scientists are paving the way for improved diagnosis and treatment of digestive disorders. With this breakthrough technology, we can gain unprecedented insight into our individual gastrointestinal health, allowing us to take back control of our well-being.

How it works

The battery-free biosensor is an innovative technology that facilitates easy and accurate tracking of glucose levels across long periods of time. This prototype was able to continuously monitored glucose levels in the small intestines of pigs 14 hours after ingestion. Pinging back results every five seconds for two to five hours

This type of sensor works by “listening” to biochemical reactions in the body using electrodes, which detect changes in electrical current. The battery-free biosensor is capable of continuously measuring glucose levels every five seconds for two to five hours. As such, it can provide a more detailed picture than single-point measurements taken with traditional blood tests. The accuracy and range of the battery-free biosensor make it ideal for medical researchers studying diabetes and other conditions that require monitoring over long periods of time, including obesity and metabolic syndromes. With its ability to capture essential data points at regular intervals, it helps medical professionals stay one step ahead when it comes to accurately assessing patient health.

How pill sensors might work in future?

Recent advancements in sensors have opened up potential new avenues for managing and treating medical conditions. One type of sensor that has received considerable attention is the wireless bowel sensor, which can be used to monitor a patient’s intestinal activity and bowel health.


This technology could provide significant medical benefits, particularly in terms of bowel diseases such as Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). By using the sensor to detect changes in bowel movements and highlighting any warning signs, doctors may be able to diagnose IBD more quickly and adjust medications accordingly. The technology could also be used in weight management and diabetes treatment, allowing patients to receive customized recommendations on diet and exercise. In addition, doctors could use sensor data to monitor the progress of obesity treatment plans over time, helping optimize treatments and ensure that the patient achieves long-term results. This type of sensor has great potential for providing improved care for a number of chronic health conditions.

The pill-shaped sensor has the potential to revolutionize how we understand and treat gut disorders. However, there are some drawbacks that must be taken into account before this technology can be widely adopted.

With further development, it is possible that many of these issues will be resolved and that we will see more widespread use of this type of sensor in both clinical and research settings.

Born to Engineer Weekly

Get the latest Engineering news delivered to your inbox every Monday morning