The sensor measures heart and breathing rates in sleep apnea patients and could monitor those at opioid overdose risk.
Diagnosing sleep disorders like sleep apnea involves an overnight stay in a sleep lab, where the patient is connected to multiple sensors and monitors.
Researchers from MIT, Celero Systems, and West Virginia University have developed an ingestible capsule, roughly the size of a multivitamin, aiming to make the diagnosis of conditions like sleep apnea less intrusive. Using an accelerometer to measure breathing and heart rates, this capsule monitors vital signs from within the patient’s GI tract. Beyond diagnosing sleep apnea, it also holds the potential for detecting opioid overdoses in high-risk individuals.
Vital sign measurements
The team has used a new capsule to measure vital signs non-intrusively. This capsule, containing an accelerometer, batteries, and a wireless antenna, accurately measures heart and lung movements, transmitting data to external devices. It proved effective in animal tests, even detecting respiratory depression from fentanyl. In a clinical trial, ten patients were simultaneously monitored with this ingestible capsule and traditional sleep sensors, revealing the capsule’s accuracy in measuring breathing and heart rates and detecting sleep apnea. The researchers noted the capsule’s data matched traditional sensor outputs and comfortably passed through the patient’s digestive systems without discomfort, as confirmed by radiographic imaging after 14 days.
The researchers aim to use this sensor technology as a less intrusive method for diagnosing sleep apnea compared to current skin-based sensors. Additionally, it holds the potential for monitoring patients during apnea treatment to ensure its effectiveness. Currently, Celero Systems is developing sensors capable of detecting conditions such as sleep apnea and opioid overdose, leveraging this innovative technology.
In future work, the researchers aim to integrate an overdose reversal agent like nalmefene into the device. This addition would enable the device to automatically release the drug if the individual’s breathing rate slows or stops. Moreover, they are focusing on methods to extend the capsules’ duration in the stomach, enhancing their efficacy and application range.