Skip to content

Orally-ingestible pill tests the microbiome at any stage of the gastrointestinal tract.

At the inception of human evolution, a symbiotic bacterial parasite was acquired and incorporated as part of the body, a million years on this parasite is now known as our microbiome, a vital part of the immune system. This microscopic world is so balanced and sensitive when the natural balance of the microbiome is skewed, a condition called ‘dysbiosis’ occurs, associated with inflammation, susceptibility to infections, and diseases such as cancer. Most studies use fecal samples to analyze the condition of the gut microbiome, however, as the gut environment changes as contents move down the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, it has been shown the difference between fecal microbiota and the gut microbiota varies too much. Now, a study from researchers led by Tufts University develop a 3D printed pill which samples the gut microbiome as it passes through the GI tract. The team states the ability to profile bacterial species inhabiting the gut could have important implications for conditions directly affected by the intestinal microbiome. The opensource study is published in the journal Advanced Intelligent Systems.

Previous studies show a person’s gut microbiota is like a unique fingerprint which varies from day-to-day, as it responds to diet, medications and other lifestyle influences. Differences in the environment throughout the GI tract also diversifies the microbiota, with analysis of the gut microbiota coming from fecal samples. Therefore, the microbiota composition of feces may be different from the makeup of the gut microbiota. The current study develops a non-invasive diagnostic tool capable of providing a profile of microbiome populations throughout the entire GI tract.

The current study utilizes a 3D printer to manufacture a capsule with microfluidic channels which can sample microbiota from different stages of the GI tract. The surface of the pill is covered with a pH-sensitive coating, which doesn’t absorb any samples until it enters the small intestine where the coating dissolves. A salt chamber in the pill creates an osmotic flow across a semi-permeable membrane which pulls the bacteria into the capsule, as a small magnet is used to hold the pill at certain locations in the gut for targeted sampling.

The pill’s sampling performance was tested in pigs and primates. Results show a fluorescent dye in the salt chamber helps locate the pill after it exits the GI tract, so it can be retrieved and its contents analyzed. Data findings show the capsule provides accurate identification of bacterial populations and their relative abundance. The team states such microfluid devices will revolutionize understanding of the spatial diversity of the gut microbiome and its response to medical conditions and treatments.

The team surmises they have developed an orally-ingested capsule which collects various species of microbiota as it passes through the GI tract. For the future, the researchers state clinical trials will be needed to determine if the pill can be used routinely in humans for clinical care.

Source: Tufts University


Get Healthinnovations delivered to your inbox:


Healthinnovations View All

Michelle Petersen is the founder of Healthinnovations, having worked in the health and science industry for over 21 years, which includes tenure within the NHS and Oxford University. Healthinnovations is a publication that has reported on, influenced, and researched current and future innovations in health for the past decade.

Michelle has been picked up as an expert writer for Informa publisher’s Clinical Trials community, as well as being listed as a blog source by the world’s leading medical journals, including the acclaimed Nature-Springer journal series.

Healthinnovations is currently indexed by the trusted Altmetric and PlumX metrics systems, respectively, as a blog source for published research globally. Healthinnovations is also featured in the world-renowned BioPortfolio,, the life science, pharmaceutical and healthcare portal.

Most recently the Texas A&M University covered The Top 10 Healthinnovations series on their site with distinguished Professor Stephen Maren calling the inclusion of himself and his team on the list a reflection of “the hard work and dedication of my students and trainees”.

Michelle Petersen’s copy was used in the highly successful marketing campaign for the mega-hit film ‘Jumanji: The Next Level, starring Jack Black, Karen Gilian, Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Michelle Petersen’s copywriting was part of the film’s coverage by the Republic TV network. Republic TV is the most-watched English language TV channel in India since its inception in 2017.

An avid campaigner in the fight against child sex abuse and trafficking, Michelle is a passionate humanist striving for a better quality of life for all humans by helping to provide traction for new technologies and techniques within healthcare.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.