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Pills have sensors

The device is the same size as a regular pill

Sensors for body biometrics such as heart rates and temperature have been incorporated to tiny devices which the patient is able to swallow. What is revolutionary about this approach from MIT is how their new one is powered - it uses the body's own natural acid to trigger the same battery effect you have in your car.

Once inside, the device gets to work. Using a wirelessly connected Android or Apple smartphone, constant readings are taken which can both be analysed after a period of time, for trends, or can even trigger alerts itself if the onboard app sees anything it needs to take action about. It is a phone after all, so it could even call the emergency services automatically.

The self-powered pill could thoretically monitor a patients vital signs for weeks. It's only been tested on pigs so far, but scientists are hopeful a human version will follow.

Stays in for 6 days

To prevent it being flushed out naturally, the device is shaped like a star so it harmlessly attaches to the digestive system. It is carefully engineered to prevent regular food passing through the digestive system

Could also release medicine

The communication with the smartphone isn't necessarily one way. Tiny payloads could be delivered with a precision previously unthinkable - or not at all if the device didn't get to the required location. 

The housing of the device can also be designed to dissolve slowly to release drugs, in the same way regular pills do, but in a much more controlled and monitored way.

Developed at MIT

pnadeau tsThe device was developed by Dr Phillip Nadeau of MIT, who has a background working with tiny radio devices with tech giants Intel and Texas Instruments. He said: 

“In the future the self-powered pill would monitor your vital signs from inside for weeks. It sits there making measurements and transmitting them to your phone.”

The device is said to be inspired by a lemon battery which used citric acid to charge a zinc nail with copper penny electrodes.