Flexible piezoelectric devices for gastrointestinal motility sensing

  • Nature Biomedical Engineeringvolume 1pages807817 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/s41551-017-0140-7
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Improvements in ingestible electronics with the capacity to sense physiological and pathophysiological states have transformed the standard of care for patients. Yet, despite advances in device development, significant risks associated with solid, non-flexible gastrointestinal transiting systems remain. Here, we report the design and use of an ingestible, flexible piezoelectric device that senses mechanical deformation within the gastric cavity. We demonstrate the capabilities of the sensor in both in vitro and ex vivo simulated gastric models, quantify its key behaviours in the gastrointestinal tract using computational modelling and validate its functionality in awake and ambulating swine. Our proof-of-concept device may lead to the development of ingestible piezoelectric devices that might safely sense mechanical variations and harvest mechanical energy inside the gastrointestinal tract for the diagnosis and treatment of motility disorders, as well as for monitoring ingestion in bariatric applications.

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We thank J. Haupt and M. Jamiel for help with the in vivo swine work. We thank Y-A. Lee for assistance with the SEM. We thank the Hope Babette Tang Histology Facility at the Koch Institute at MIT for the histology work and consultation. We also thank the MIT Microsystems Technology Laboratories and MIT Microscopy Core Facility. C.D. thanks the late G. Caliskanoglu for useful suggestions on the device design. This work was funded in part by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Swiss National Foundation (to T.v.E.), National Institutes of Health grant EB-000244, the Max Planck Research Award (Award Ltr Dtd. 2/11/08), the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung Foundation (to R.L.) and the Division of Gastroenterology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (to G.T.).

Author information


  1. Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 02139, USA

    • Canan Dagdeviren
    • , Zijun Wei
    •  & Robert Langer
  2. David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 02142, USA

    • Farhad Javid
    • , Pauline Joe
    • , Thomas von Erlach
    • , Taylor Bensel
    • , Sarah Saxton
    • , Cody Cleveland
    • , Lucas Booth
    • , Shane McDonnell
    • , Joy Collins
    • , Alison Hayward
    • , Robert Langer
    •  & Giovanni Traverso
  3. Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 02139, USA

    • Robert Langer
  4. Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 02139, USA

    • Robert Langer
  5. Division of Gastroenterology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 02115, USA

    • Giovanni Traverso


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C.D. designed and fabricated the PZT GI-S. C.D. and G.T. designed the in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo experiments. T.v.E. performed the cell culture study and studied the biocompatibility of the PZT GI-S. C.D., P.J., T.B. and Z.W. designed an in vitro setup to simulate stomach behaviour and conducted in vitro trials of PZT GI-S. F.J. performed ABAQUS/Standard for finite element modelling. C.D., S.S., C.C. and L.B. designed and conducted the ex vivo studies. C.D., P.J., S.M., J.C., A.H. and G.T. performed in vivo evaluations of the GI-S in Yorkshire swine models. All authors discussed and interpreted the results, and wrote and edited the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Canan Dagdeviren or Giovanni Traverso.

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