A new smart pill has been developed that can accurately monitor a person's breathing and heart rate from inside their gut. This technology could have potential applications in diagnosing sleep apnea and detecting opioid overdoses. Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by lapses in breathing during sleep and is usually diagnosed through overnight hospital stays with monitoring devices. However, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created an ingestible electronic device that allows for wireless and cost-effective assessment of sleep apnea at home.
The smart pill is approximately the size of a vitamin supplement and contains an accelerometer that measures breathing and heart rate by detecting vibrations in the gut. It also has a medical-implant radio that transmits this information to an external computer. In a study involving 10 participants, the smart pill accurately measured breathing rate with 93% accuracy and heart rate with 96% accuracy. It was able to detect uncontrolled sleep apnea in one participant.
In addition to sleep apnea, the researchers believe that this technology could be used to detect opioid overdoses. They conducted an experiment with an anaesthetized pig, introducing the pill into its stomach and administering a large dose of the opioid fentanyl. The smart pill detected a sharp drop in the pig's breathing rate, allowing the researchers to administer naloxone to reverse the opioid effects and restore normal breathing.
Currently, the pill is typically excreted within a day, limiting its usefulness in detecting overdoses. However, the researchers plan to modify it so that it can stay in the gut for a longer period of time. They are also exploring the possibility of engineering the pill to automatically release naloxone when an opioid user stops breathing.
Overall, this smart pill shows promise in revolutionizing the way sleep apnea is diagnosed and potentially saving lives in cases of opioid overdoses. Further research and development are needed to optimize its effectiveness and safety.