Learning about what makes us sick is essentially the first step in developing medicines and vaccines to keep us healthy. We’ve seen a few examples of sensors being used in digestible and biodegradable sensors. The latest in this lineup of sensors can give you a gut feeling, and even have you armed to the teeth.
Trust your Gut with this sensor
For example, the gut sensor measures about the size of an average pen cap. It is filled with bacteria that was developed specifically to detect a compound in blood called heme. If heme is detected in the gut, the bacteria would glow. The sensor would then detect the glowing bacteria and generate an alert to the accompanying smartphone app. For now, even though the sensor is limited to detecting heme, in the future it would be possible to detect other compounds as well.
The sensor has the potential to be a less invasive method for diagnosing gastrointestinal and stomach issues. In case you didn’t know, a colonoscopy is recommended for anyone over 50 years of age. The pill is much easier to swallow (pun intended).
Monitoring physical Injury? There’s a sensor for that
To monitor physical injury, scientists have also developed a sensor that can help with physical therapy. More specifically, for tendon injuries. Directly implantable into an injury, the sensor is composed of rubbery materials and measures less than a third of an inch in length.
If you’ve already had a tendon injury, you would know that it it’s a tricky thing to heal. Because Tendons don’t have much blood supply, they take time to heal. They also scar as opposed to regenerating a new tendon. If it’s serious, you might also require surgery to sew the tendon back up. This is where the sensor would come into play
The sensor would be able to measure strain and pressure. This would allow patients along their road to recovery. Rather than complex instructions such as asking a patient to “bend your tendon 30 degrees”, the sensor would collect info and send it to a smartphone app. The app in turn would give more useful feedback such as to use more strength, thus speeding up the recovery process. Once all is said and done, the sensor would simply decompose so you don’t have to take it out.
The tooth (sensor) shall set you free
If sensors in your body sound too futuristic, then what about one that can be mounted in your teeth? Scientists at Tufts University have created such sensors. Resembling tiny gold stickers, the sensors have three separate layers to detect chemicals in saliva. All data is once again sent to a smartphone application. When tested on humans, the sensor was able to detect glucose, alcohol, and salt as well.
However, the tooth sensor is not powerful enough to determine calorie count. On the other hand, saliva contains a plethora of hormones that can provide real-time health information. This information can be used to detect anything from oral cancer to diabetes.
Just how viable are these sensors?
While all these look promising, there’s no clear indication of how they would work inside the human body. The three sensors here were implanted into pigs and rats, respectively. There’s also the element of cost. There’s nothing to show exactly how much these sensors would cost, so it’s difficult to say how much they would be priced at. In addition, in countries with less than ideal healthcare provisioning, these technologies might not even be present there either.
All in all, though, the technology does look very interesting. It would be more interesting to see if said sensor technologies were also available in Sri Lanka as well.