Smart Pills

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Updated: 11/03/2011 1:52 pm
From detecting conditions that would otherwise go undiagnosed to sending messages to your doctor’s cell phone, smart pills are helping solve medical mysteries and can do a whole lot more.

Capsule endoscopy is a procedure that uses a tiny wireless camera to take pictures of your digestive tract. A capsule endoscopy camera sits inside a vitamin-sized capsule that you swallow. As the capsule travels through your digestive tract, the camera takes thousands of pictures that are transmitted to a recorder you wear on a belt around your waist. Capsule endoscopy helps doctors see inside your small intestine — an area that isn't easily reached with more-traditional endoscopy procedures. (

RISKS: Capsule endoscopy is a safe procedure that carries few risks. In most cases, the capsule will leave your body when you have a bowel movement later in the day or within several days. In rare cases, the capsule can become lodged in your digestive tract. The risk is thought to be small — about one percent of people undergoing capsule endoscopy may experience capsule retention. Put another way, this means that for every 100 people who undergo capsule endoscopy, one person might still retain the capsule after two weeks. The risk may be slightly higher in people known to have Crohn's disease. (
THE MERMAID: Researchers from Ryukoku University and Osaka Medical College in Japan have developed a self-propelled remote-controlled endoscopic pill. One centimeter wide and 4.5 centimeters long, it has a tail fin-like magnetic driving gear that allow it to “swim” through the digestive tract. It is controlled using a joystick and can be swallowed or inserted rectally. (
ID CAP: eTect is a development stage company creating ID-Cap, an innovative solution that uses novel technology and the mobile internet to provide real-time verification of medication adherence. The patented ID-Cap system consists of three major elements: 1) biocompatible transponder tags affixed to the medication; 2) a reader worn by the patient, and; 3) a user interface application residing on a mobile phone. The ID-Cap is applied to the medicine, the patient ingests it, and upon ingestion the tag reports to a wristband reader worn by the patient. The tag breaks down into small particles and passes harmlessly through the digestive tract. The patient's cell phone will be running eTect's medication reminder app that will read the medication information, remind the patient to take the medication, and provide the medication adherence information to their clinical research or healthcare team.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
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