Researchers develop 3D printed stomach monitor

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03/04/2018

A team of researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at San Diego have created a 3D printed wearable stomach monitor.

The device, described as an electrocardiogram for the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract, is intended to monitor electrical activity in the stomach for 24 hours.

The device consists of a 3D printed portable box connected to 10 wearable electrodes which fit on a person’s abdomen over the stomach. The system is paired with an app that lets patients log activities such as meals and sleep.

The researchers’ goal is to design an app that collects data in real-time for patients and physicians to see.

Applications for the device include it being used to monitor GI activity for patients outside of a clinical setting to help cut healthcare costs. By monitoring stomach activity for long periods of time there is also an increased chance of capturing abnormal events.

The team tested the device on 11 children and one adult volunteer and found that data collected on the system was comparable to invasive clinical data. Previously, the 11 patients had been undergoing an invasive procedure to monitor GI activity.

Data showed that the stomach’s electrical activity changes around meals and also sleep, following its own circadian rhythm.

Speaking about the device, Armen Gharibans, first author of the study: “We think our system will spark a new kind of medicine, where a gastroenterologist can quickly see where and when a part of the GI tract is showing abnormal rhythms and as a result make more accurate, faster and personalised diagnoses.”

Physicians involved in the study say the device could meet an unmet clinical need. Co-author of the study and gastroenterologist at UC San Diego Health, David Kunkel, said: “This will help us determine if the stomach is functioning properly during meals and - most importantly - when patients are experiencing symptoms such as nausea and belly pain.”

To monitor electrical signals in the stomach – which are 10 times weaker than the heart’s – the team developed an algorithmic pipeline that can clean up the data and separate out abdominal muscle activity, heart beats and gastric activity.

The device could be used to improve the management of patients with diabetes and Parkinson’s, as GI problems such as delayed emptying of the stomach, are common symptoms of these diseases. It could also be used to monitor the GI activity of athletes and pregnant women suffering from heartburn and other issues.

Benjamin Smarr, one of the paper’s co-authors and a chronobiologist at UC Berkeley, said: “Changes to digestion and gastric health are hallmarks of two understudied processes: ageing and pregnancy. One of our hopes is that this technology will allow us to quantify the changes that happen during these critical periods in life. They affect the vast majority of humanity, and will now be possible to study what’s going on, and build predictive, personal medical applications based on getting ahead of bad changes.”


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