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  • Leena Mirchandani

Smart Pills

According to the Alliance of Advanced BioMedical Engineering, “smart pills refers to miniature electronic devices that are shaped and designed in the mold of pharmaceutical capsules but perform highly advanced functions such as sensing, imaging and drug delivery. They may include biosensors or image, pH or chemical sensors.” Smart pills are classified as ingestible sensors. They are swallowed and then travel through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and are eliminated as waste. Smart pills are a viable alternative to rigid scopes which can be uncomfortable and can cause bruises or infection. Completely wireless and advanced in batteries and on-board memory, smart pills allow for real time transmission and long-term sensing from within the body.

Smart pills are revolutionary as they can replace traditional scopes. Endoscopy probes enter the body through the esophagus which can cause discomfort. “A smart pill or wireless capsule endoscopy (WCE), however, can easily be swallowed and maneuvered to capture images, and requires minimal patient preparation, such as sedation (Alliance of Advanced BioMedical Engineering).” The sensors built into the smart pills allow it to track movement and measurement of fluid gastrointestinal tract.

An FDA approved smart pill PillCam COLON provides a “clear visualization” of the colon and can be “complementary” to a colonoscopy. PillCams allow more people to get screened for colon cancer easier and faster. According to the Medtronic website, “This innovative capsule endoscopy solution (PillCams) provides clear images of the colon to support detection of polyps with a noninvasive, patient-friendly device.” This means that PillCams can detect polyps and provide clear images of them in a patient-friendly manner. Smart pills including those by Proteus Digital Health and HQ Inc. can monitor vital signs and record acidity and PH levels along the GI tract. This can scan for ulcers and tumors. Smart pills are able to monitor vital signs including blood flow and body temperature for people with underlying health conditions including heart problems, schizophrenia, or Alzheimer’s.

Smart pills are able to track the digestion of medication as well. Sometimes, medications do not absorb correctly within the digestive system so smart pills can track their digestion through environmental sensors. According to Advanced BioMedical Engineering, “This can ensure optimal drug delivery and prevent accidental overdose.”

Smart pills can be beneficial in many ways and are revolutionary technologies in the medical field.

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