An inflatable pill can be used to monitor infections, cancers, or ulcer, said researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The pill, inspired by puffer fish, is designed to inflate to 100 times its size, reaching the size of a ping pong ball within 15 minutes of ingestion.
This “puffer pill” is made from super-absorbent particles covered by a protective layer that keeps them from breaking apart, a design that allows the pill to withstand the harsh gastric environment.
A prototype of this device containing temperature sensors, after being fed to pigs, was able to accurately track the animals’ daily activity patterns for up to a month. The applications are not limited to such, though. The researchers envision puffer pills that can get several sensors to the stomach. These could monitor pH levels and look for signs of bacteria and other microbes. Tiny cameras could also be embedded in the pills, which would image the progress of tumors or ulcers. It may also be used as an alternative to gastric balloons to encourage weight loss.