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Swallowing a Diagnostic Pill

Scientists develop new way to detect early stomach cancer (December 4)

A tiny capsule that can carry out a chemical analysis of the contents of a person’s stomach could identify the presence of occult blood at very low levels, according to researchers in China. The data are automatically broadcast to an external monitoring device for the detection of early-stage stomach cancer by the physician. Details of the invention and of initial trials will be published in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology.

The researchers have adapted capsule endoscopy to allow them to detect tiny quantities of blood that might be present in a patient with the earliest signs of stomach cancer. The capsule is encased in nontoxic, acid-safe polycarbonate. It contains a detector, a power supply, and a wireless transmitter. The device has a detection limit of 6 micrograms per liter of fluid. Once its task is complete, the tiny pill-like device is disposed of through the usual route without harm to the stomach or intestine, the researchers say.

Occult bleeding is usually first identified in patients who have given a stool sample in which blood is found. However, it is important to identify the source of such blood (i.e., whether it is from the stomach or intestine).

The next step is to test the device for clinical safety.

Source: Inderscience Publishing; December 4, 2013.

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