A new electronic diagnostic tool called the SmartPill has been developed by scientists, who claim it can be swallowed by patients to measure conditions like pressure, pH and temperature.
Researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center have revealed that it travels through the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract).
In a new study, the researchers used the device in patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis (UC).
They tried to find out if they have significantly more acidic pH in their colons, compared with the average person, a finding that may impact treatment strategy.
"By using the SmartPill to measure the pH throughout the digestive tract, we were able to see how the pH levels can vary in patients with ulcerative colitis. This may help us understand why some drug treatments are more effective than others," says Dr. Brian Bosworth, lead investigator.
The mainstay drug therapy for the induction and maintenance of remission in patients with mild to moderate UC are mesalamines-and their efficacy is dependent on how well the drug is delivered to the active site of the disease.
The delivery system of many mesalamines is dependent upon a specific pH in order to release, but since the pH levels in the GI tract can vary, it could affect the proper release and efficacy of the medication.
In the study, five patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis (UC) and five healthy control patients swallowed the SmartPill.
The researchers observed that while all study participants reached a pH of 7, the UC patients reached this level more slowly than those without UC.
Also, the amount of time the colon maintained a pH greater than 6 or greater than 7 was less in the UC patients.
The majority of mesalamines dissolve at a pH greater than or equal to 7, but, there is a more recently approved medication that initiates release of mesalamine at pH greater than or equal to 6.
The SmartPill, if administered in the physician's office, allows the patients to go about their normal routine during the course of the test.
As the SmartPill Capsule passes through the GI tract, it transmits data - including pressure, pH and temperature - to a SmartPill Data Receiver worn by the patient.
And once the single-use capsule has passed from the body, the patient returns the Data Receiver to the physician who can then download the collected data to a computer, where it can be analysed.
The study was presented at the Digestive Disease Week (DDW) meeting in Chicago, Ill.