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Wearables for Gastrointestinal Diagnostics? There is some exciting work going on at UC San Diego relating to gastrointestinal (GI) diagnostics. According to a number of recently published articles, researchers have been working on a wearable device that would make it possible to monitor human gastrointestinal activity with a completely noninvasive device.

Given our interest in for the development of GI medical devices and associated data processing, this project sounds fascinating. The technology behind it is based on ’90s-era electrogastrography (EGG) technology that was developed but eventually abandoned. UC San Diego researchers think they can put it to good use. Their prototype wearable suggests they are on the right path. How the Device Works The best way to understand the UC San Diego device is to think of it as an electrocardiogram (ECG) for the gut. An electrocardiogram is a test that measures heart activity through small electrodes attached to the chest. The electrodes receive and measure electrical activity in the heart to help determine whether disease is present or not. An electroencephalogram (EEG) does the same thing for the brain. It utilizes electrodes to measure electrical activity, thus telling doctors whether the brain neurons are firing properly or not. This is the exact same principle behind the EGG technology UC San Diego researchers are working on. Their wearable device is attached to the skin and measures electrical signal activity going on in the gastrointestinal tract. Unlike measuring electrical activity in the heart or brain though, tracking what’s going on in the gastrointestinal tract is a bit more difficult due to excessive clutter and noise. Researchers believe they have found a way to filter out those unwanted signals in order to get an accurate understanding of the patient’s GI system health. Practical Uses for the Technology One of the reasons EGG development was abandoned in the mid-1990s was a lack of practical application as well as higher costs for sophisticated signal collection and data processing. Back then, the technology was far too expensive and limited to make using it in the daily practice of medicine worthwhile. That is no longer the case. The UC San Diego researchers created their prototype with 3-D printing, and lower cost, high performance electronics, which solved the cost problem. As for practical application, there is plenty to be had. At the top of the list is providing gastrointestinal diagnostics through primary care doctors rather than having to go to specialists. Furthermore, having a wearable device that patients can take with them for extended periods of time leads to more effective gastrointestinal monitoring and better detection of abnormalities.


As it stands right now, most patients requiring gastrointestinal diagnostics are monitored for short periods of time in an outpatient setting. When they leave the clinical facility, in many cases, the monitoring ceases. This kind of diagnostics scenario is very prone to the age-old conundrum we are all familiar with: everything looks fine in the doctor’s office, but then problems start all over again as soon as you leave. Wearable gastrointestinal diagnostic devices will undoubtedly increase the accuracy and effectiveness of the practice of medicine. The research at UC San Diego is good news simply because their success will mean better results that directly affect a patient’s course of treatment and quality of life. It’s a Wearables World Who would have thought when Apple came out with the first smartphone that we would eventually be applying some of the same technologies to create wearables for medical monitoring? It is amazing how far signal collection, processing, and analytics have progressed over the last 10 years. Embedded computing and high performance digital signal processing puts us into a wearables world. We are on the brink of a boom in the development of gastrointestinal diagnostics. And while many, including Rock West, continue to work on those technologies, others are working on wearables for monitoring heart monitoring, brain activity, blood pressure, faster blood test diagnostics, and so much more.

Wearables for Gastrointestinal Diagnostics?  

There is some exciting work going on at UC San Diego relating to gastrointestinal (GI) diagnostics. According to a number of recently publis...

Wearables for Gastrointestinal Diagnostics?  

There is some exciting work going on at UC San Diego relating to gastrointestinal (GI) diagnostics. According to a number of recently publis...

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