Multi-purpose sensor in your stomach

Swallow the smart capsule just developed by an MIT-led coalition of bioengineers and it can stay in your stomach for weeks, delivering drugs, diagnosing conditions, or monitoring treatment of infections, among other tasks.

The device responds to commands from a smartphone app and reports its readings back to you or to your doctor’s computer. The capsule also can combine its findings with those from other wearable sensors that might pool data to enable doctors to read a range of information at one time.

The 3D-printed gadget has three arms that fold so it can be slipped into a capsule, then swallowed. In the stomach, the capsule dissolves and the arms unfold, enabling the device to hold its place in the stomach. After about a month, the device dissolves into smaller pieces, which then are excreted.

The Y-shaped pod is printed with compartments that can hold drugs, which can be time-released. Alternatively, a compartment could be opened by a wireless signal from outside the body and dump its drug payload into the stomach all at once.

3D-printing the device also allows the engineers to make a device that resists corrosive stomach acids for a specific period – perhaps only a day or two to take readings and help pin down a diagnosis; or up to 36 days to deliver a steady flow of drugs over time.

Research versions of the device have been powered by a tiny silver-oxide battery. The developers are working on a way to power the capsule wirelessly or even using stomach acid itself.

A company has been formed to refine and commercialize the invention.


Human trials could begin within two years. Eventually, miniaturized versions of the capsule could not only be swallowed but also inhaled or injected at other sites in the body.

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