As food moves through the digestive tract, contracting muscles along the tract keep things flowing smoothly. Loss of this motility can lead to acid reflux, failure of food to move out of the stomach, or constipation. Dysmotility disorders are usually diagnosed with a catheter containing pressure transducers, which can sense contractions of the GI tract. MIT researchers have now designed a new device that could offer a cheaper and easier-to-manufacture alternative to existing diagnostics for GI dysmotility, inspired by the design of an ancient Incan technology, the quipu (image)--a set of knotted cords used to communicate information. In animal tests, the MIT researchers and their collaborators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed that their simple device, a silicone tube filled with liquid metal and knotted many times, produces measurements similar to those generated by the state-of-the-art diagnostic technique, known as high-resolution manometry.
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