softer and longer-lasting than current ingestible sensors, which either are only able to remain in the stomach for few days, or are made from hard plastics or metals that are much stiffer than the gastrointestinal tract.
“The dream is to have a Jell-O-like smart pill, that once swallowed stays in the stomach and monitors the patient’s health for a long time, such as a month,” said researcher Xuanhe Zhao, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT.
Study co-lead author Xinyue Liu explained that, “currently, when people try to design these highly swellable gels, they usually use diffusion, letting water gradually diffuse into the hydrogel network. But to swell to the size of a ping-pong ball takes hours, or even days. It’s longer than the emptying time of the stomach.”
The MIT team succeeded in creating a hydrogel pill that could inflate much more quickly. They said they were inspired by the pufferfish. When threatened, it inflates by quickly sucking in a large amount of water.
Eventually, it may be possible to use the pill with a number of different sensors to check pH levels or for