Powered by the body, Proteus has added magnesium and copper on each side of its tiny sensor, allowing it to generate electricity from stomach acids. The computer travels through the intestinal tract, and tracks medication-taking behaviors as well as how the body is responding to medicine.
People with heart-related difficulties could monitor blood flow and body temperature; those with central nervous system issues, including schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, could take the pills to monitor vital signs in real time.
A similar pill, the CorTemp Ingestible Core Body Temperature Sensor from HQ Inc., has a built-in battery and transmits real-time body temperature. Firefighters, football players, soldiers and astronauts have used the device so their employers can monitor them and ensure they do not overheat in high temperatures. The company hopes to have a consumer version that would wirelessly communicate to a smartphone app within the next year.
“You will — voluntarily, I might add — take a pill, which you think of as a pill but is in fact a microscopic robot, which will monitor your systems” and wirelessly transmit what is happening, Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, said last fall. “If it makes the difference between health and death, you’re going to want this thing.”