Skip to main content

MIT pill inflates in your gut so you can’t digest it. Here’s why that’s awesome

Jell-O-like, expanding pill

Ever eat a meal that’s way too big and, afterward, feel like the food is continuing to expand inside your stomach? That’s kind of what researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed with a new ingestible pill that is able to rapidly blow up into a soft hydrogel object the size of a ping-pong ball after it’s been consumed. Once inflated, it can then be used to track the body’s core temperature — and one day perhaps ulcers, cancers, and other gastrointestinal conditions — for up to one month. It could even potentially help people lose weight where needed.

“The hydrogel device can stay in the stomach for a long time and maintain its softness and integrity,” Xinyue Liu, one of the researchers who worked on the project, told Digital Trends. “It is also able to carry cargoes including drug formulations, mini camera, and wireless sensors. The industries that this smart-hydrogel-pill technology may impact include long-term in-body physiological monitoring and diagnosis, prolonged drug delivery, [and] bariatric [and] metabolic interventions, where the hydrogel balls can fill the stomach and make people feel full and eat less.”

The smart pill is made using two hydrogel materials. One contains absorbent particles called sodium polyacrylate, while the other — composed of a grid of crystalline chains — stops it from tearing apart when it expands in the stomach. The pill is impressively durable and capable of remaining intact inside the stomach throughout the period it’s inside someone. Should the patient at any point need to ditch it, they can quickly remove it by drinking a calcium solution, causing the capsule to quickly return to its original size and pass safely out of the body through the digestive system.

“We have [so far] demonstrated the efficacy of the ingestible hydrogel device in large animals,” Liu said. “It is capable of one month [of] continuous measurement of gastric temperature in a pig model. In the next step, we will validate the efficacy and safety of the technique in other animals, such as [a] dog and human. We also have high interest in adapting this highly swellable hydrogel device for obesity control and nutritional modulation.”

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more