MIT researchers develop ingestible real-time vital sign monitor

Ingestible drug monitoring is already on its way--with the first drug to incorporate the technology already being considered by the FDA alongside a nod earlier this year for the tech itself from Proteus. And ingestible imaging was approved by the FDA last year with PillCam, which is now owned by Medtronic ($MDT). The latest ingestible tech that may be up next before the regulator could be vital sign monitoring.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have published an animal proof-of-concept study of their ingestible vital sign monitor that tracks heart and respiratory rates in real time. This is expected to work in conjunction with telemedicine, as well as potentially to monitor high-performance athletes and endangered workers such as those in the military or first responders.

Giovanni Traverso , Massachusetts General Hospital gastroenterologist

"Through characterization of the acoustic wave, recorded from different parts of the GI tract, we found that we could measure both heart rate and respiratory rate with good accuracy," Giovanni Traverso, a research affiliate at MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and one of the lead authors of a paper describing the device in the Nov. 18 issue of the journal PLOS One, said in a statement.

The other lead author on the paper is Gregory Ciccarelli, an associate staff member at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory. Well-known drug delivery specialist Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and a member of the Koch Institute, as well as Albert Swiston, a technical staff member at Lincoln Laboratory, are also listed as senior authors.

The researchers developed an endoscopically guided miniature electret microphone and measured the resulting acoustic data along the GI tract from mouth to colon in 6 pigs. They then developed a processing algorithm to analyze the sound waves and to separate out background noise from the gastrointestinal tract and other sources.

The results analyzed more than 400 minutes of data that were found to be similar to results from standard vital sign monitors. Current methods for tracking heart and respiratory rate typically rely upon skin contact, although some more recent approaches embed vital sign tracking in beds and chairs as well as others that use cameras.

The researchers essentially created "an extremely tiny stethoscope that you can swallow," Swiston said. "Using the same sensor, we can collect both your heart sounds and your lung sounds. That's one of the advantages of our approach--we can use one sensor to get two pieces of information."

The research was sponsored by the Air Force as well as the National Institutes of Health.

- here is the announcement
- and the paper