PhD student creates 'robot pill' that takes samples of bacteria from patients' guts

A Massey University PhD student has created a 'robot pill' that can take samples of bacteria from our gut.

Health experts said it could revolutionise health diagnoses by unlocking the secrets hidden deep inside us.

"[The pill] is like sending a submarine which is going there and collecting some of the things down there," said PhD student Muhammad Rehan.

But unlike a submarine, this robot is much, much smaller. It takes a sample of the micro-organisms inside our gut and these can be used to early diagnose some deadly diseases like cancer, obesity, and diabetes, Rehan said.

The pill is designed to be swallowed. Once it's inside a person's stomach, it can be remotely controlled to open up and collect samples of the bacteria before shutting again and making its way through the body naturally. 

The robot pill has already won a breakthrough idea award.

"A game-changer for not just health diagnosis, but nutritional studies," Rehan said.

Gut Foundation trustee and paediatric gastroenterologist Professor Andrew Day said it has real potential.

"In terms of much more intensive investigations, it is going to make it simpler."

He said we've already seen advances like a colonoscopy, where a camera can see inside your bowel.

"But being able to sample the bacteria take things a step further."

While the pill is still in its prototype stage, they are taking it to the commercial market and Rehan believes it has a bright future.

"We are not just going into the gut collecting samples. There are many other things we can do with this robotic pill," Rehan said.

A potential wonder pill with a 21st-century twist.