Remember The Movie Inner Space?

The Lempert Report
August 31, 2018

It was 31 years ago that Dennis Quaid was shrunk and ended up in Martin Short’s Body.

Fast forward to today and a futuristic pill called IMBED — short for ingestible micro-bioelectronic device —  used to detect excess blood in the stomachs of pigs. After finding blood, the capsule sends a wireless signal from within the pig's body that is read by a smartphone and a laptop computer. The MIT researchers, led by microbiology graduate student Mark Mimee and electrical engineering researcher Phillip Nadeau, put the IMBEDs through their paces in the stomachs of six pigs.

Other IMBEDs outfitted with different bacteria were able to detect one molecule that signals inflammation inside the gut and another that's a biomarker for gastrointestinal infections. IMBEDs combine advances in synthetic biology with improvements in electrical engineering.

Although IMBEDs are still years away from being used in patients, according to the LA Times report, gastroenterologists say they are already eager to get their hands on them.

Inside the capsule are four wells that contain genetically engineered Escherichia colibacteria. These biosensors have been modified to recognize a particular molecule of interest. A semi-permeable membrane traps the biosensors inside the capsules, but allows molecules from the environment to enter and be detected.

Beneath each well is a tiny electronic photodetector that can register light from the bacteria. A luminometer chip converts it into a digital signal, and a wireless transmitter sends that signal outside the body.

Biomedicine will change our lives.