A smart pill that non-invasively monitors inflammation, microbiota activity, nutrient uptake and other gut health biomarkers is the planned outcome of Ingestibles for Gut Health. This will provide food and pharma companies and technology providers with new opportunities for targeted improvement of gut health and overall wellbeing.
What if consumers could measure nutrient uptake and other biomarkers for gut health – and get personalized advice on diet, lifestyle and medicine use – just by ingesting a small pill? It would save consumers, patients and medical staff tedious and time-consuming medical examinations, and help scientists and doctors understand precisely what is happening in the gut. Which nutrients are absorbed and where? Which metabolites are produced by the microbiota? And precisely where in the intestines are individuals with Crohn’s Disease affected, or those with ulcerative colitis or Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Though very common, gut diseases are currently not well understood. Improving our understanding would provide food and pharma companies, and doctors, opportunities to detect health issues at an early stage and develop more-targeted interventions. This would improve people’s quality of life and – as gut health is related to immune function, glucose metabolism and other key processes in the body – overall wellbeing.
Completely new technology
In Ingestibles for Gut Health, OnePlanet Research Center aims to develop completely new technology that will incorporate miniaturized sensors in a pill, connect them to a digital platform with advanced chips that can read these data, and transmit it to a data platform that can interpret the recorded parameters.
Experts from imec, specializing in high-tech sensors, micro-electronics, and wearables, are collaborating closely with nutritionists, chemists, physicians and gastroenterologists from Wageningen University & Research, Radboud University and Radboudumc to overcome the technological and practical challenges anticipated with such a disruptive innovation. The pill should, for example, be easily swallowable and resistant to digestive enzymes. It should also be easy to track, and require a minuscule amount of power.
Fundamental to the OnePlanet vision is that what is developed makes a clear and measurable difference in real life. That’s why food, pharma and technology developers are invited to join the innovation process.
Towards personalized advice
The first generation of ingestibles is being tested in SHIME, an advanced in vitro model that mimics the environment and behavior of the gut. A clinical trial with volunteers is planned for early 2022. The functionality of the first generation of smart pills will be extended over the coming years. By 2027, a highly advanced sensing platform will be available, including Smart Algorithms, and a dashboard, to monitor gut health.