By Dr. Mallika Marshall

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are on the verge of making some gastrointestinal treatments more convenient and safer for patients.

There are a variety of ingested devices that remain in the GI tract for an extended period of time, like bariatric balloons that are inflated in the stomach to promote weight loss or stents to keep the esophagus open. But removing these devices usually required endoscopic procedures.

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MIT engineers demonstrated a bariatric balloon that can be inflated in the stomach and then degraded by shining light on the seal, which is made of a novel light-sensitive polymer. (Image credit: Ritu Raman – MIT)

Now engineers at MIT are making devices from a light-sensitive hydrogel that biodegrades when exposed to light.

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When they placed a small LED in the stomachs of pigs with bariatric balloons for about six hours, the balloons slowly deflated.

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An ingestible LED like this could be swallowed to expose light-sensitive medical devices to light, helping them to break down in the body. (Image credit: Ritu Raman – MIT)

They say this approach could be used with many other devices, including those that might deliver drugs to the gut.

Dr. Mallika Marshall