NPR: “Craptastic Voyage” and Fart Analysis

Surely a story for every gastroenterologist: “Before The Gas is Passed, Researchers Aim to Measure it in The Gut.”

An excerpt:

Kalantar-Zadeh and his colleagues propose in a paper in Trends in Biotechnologyonline Thursday two new devices that could keep a vigilant eye, or a nose in this case, on what’s going on deep in the gut….

The jar is pretty straightforward. A spoonful of poop goes in and a technician squeezes on a lid containing a sensor that detects the molecules of gas fuming inside and at what concentration…but he’s most excited about their other invention.

It’s a robotic pill that sniffs its way along a craptastic voyage through the gut. As the pill tumbles through, a membrane on the pill lets gasses pass onto a small molecular sensor inside that serves as its nose. The membrane blocks the other stuff sloshing around in the gut.

The pill notes the gasses that gut microbes produce, including oxygen, methane, hydrogen and hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs. The pill’s sensor figures out how much of each gas is present, and beams the information out of the patient’s body through a tiny antenna…

The researchers aim to detect changes in gas content. As people’s health waxes or wanes because of stress or disease their intestinal ecosystems change too. Certain microbes may thrive in the new conditions while others struggle. As the populations shift, so will the concentrations of their distinctive gassy waste products.

My Take: This story reminds me about the joke I heard from a mentor about how can you tell if a person is an optimist.  An optimist is a person who finds a pile of manure under the tree on Christmas morning and declares: ‘Oh boy, I’m getting a pony.’

This story shows us that some researchers are true optimists as well; they see a lot of opportunity in studying stool and intestinal gases. Will this research will be useful or wind up being a pile of stool?

Also on NPR: Why Is Insulin So Expensive in the U.S. -summarizes recent commentary (N Engl J Med 2015; 372:1171-1175). This article is important for anyone concerned about escalating medicine costs.

Related blog post“There is No ‘Healthy’ Microbiome” | gutsandgrowth

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