3D-printed pill can increase knowledge about intestinal microbiome

– Aug. 27, 2019

A group of engineers at Tufts University in the United States has developed a 3D printed pill that can sample bacteria from the microbiome as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract. The samples can help us in researching diseases about which we still have much to learn.

The human microbiome comprises billions of microbes such as bacteria, yeasts, archaea and phages, and plays a major role in the health of the body. When the balance of your intestinal bicrobiome is disturbed, it can result in constipation, bloating and diarrhoea. If the balance is not restored, this causes irritation of the intestinal tract, which increases the risk of infections and disease. 

Using a pill to take samples

The 3D-printed pill was designed to take samples of all microbes at a certain location in the intestinal tract in a non-invasive way. Several clever features make this possible. The pH-sensitive outer layer ensures that the pill can reach the intestinal tract without being damaged by the acidic environment of the stomach. The pill also contains a small magnet, enabling the pill to be held at a specific location for sampling using a magnet outside the body. When the pill is in use, the contents of the intestinal tract can flow through the pill as the micro-organisms are captured by a microfilter.

There is still so much to learn about the composition of the microbiome in different stages of the intestinal tract and the connection to overall health and diseases. If the pill proves feasible for use in humans, it could be an important tool for studying various intestinal tract diseases and defects. In addition, it makes individual diagnosis and treatment possible.