National Science Foundation-funded engineers have designed an ingestible, Jell-O-like pill that, upon reaching the stomach, quickly swells to the size of a soft, squishy ping-pong ball big enough to stay in the stomach for an extended period of time. The inflatable pill is embedded with a sensor that continuously tracks the stomach's temperature for up to 30 days. If the pill needs to be removed from the stomach, a patient can drink a solution of calcium that triggers the pill to quickly shrink to its original size and pass safely out of the body. The new pill is made from two types of hydrogels -- mixtures of polymers and water that resemble the consistency of Jell-O. The combination enables the pill to quickly swell in the stomach while remaining impervious to the stomach's churning acidic environment. The hydrogel-based design is softer, more biocompatible, and longer-lasting than current ingestible sensors, which either can only remain in the stomach for a few days, or are made from hard plastics or metals that are orders of magnitude stiffer than the gastrointestinal tract.
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