A pill that vibrates to relieve constipation, a sensor that can be tracked in the gut — medical researchers are turning to tiny robots to treat or diagnose gastrointestinal disorders.
“This is a very booming field,” said Saransh Sharma, a doctoral student at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) involved in the development of the ingestible diagnostic sensor.
“You have medical robots that are so small you can just send them inside a person using the oral passage and they can do a lot of sensing and actuation inside the gut,” Sharma told AFP.
About 16 of every 100 adults in the United States suffer from symptoms of constipation, according to the US health authorities, and the number doubles for Americans over the age of 60.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Caltech have developed an ingestible sensor that can be monitored as it travels through the digestive tract.
The device, 20 millimeters in length and eight mm in diameter, could help physicians diagnose gastrointestinal motility disorders that prevent food from moving normally through the digestive tract.
The capsule’s location reveals where a slowdown is taking place.
“That gives the doctor a lot of the essential information to do a better job in the curing and the diagnosis and the treatment plan,” Sharma said.
The sensor could also provide an alternative to invasive procedures such as endoscopy or other diagnostic techniques such as nuclear imaging, X-rays or catheters.
It has been tested on pigs and the team behind the research hopes to eventually obtain the approval of the US Food and Drug Administration for human clinical trials.
“If we can demonstrate a device inside large animals like pigs up to a very high confidence, we can say that it will scale very well in human anatomy as well,” Sharma said.
The authors published the results of their research on Monday in the journal Nature Electronics.
They said the sensor works by detecting a magnetic field produced by an electromagnetic coil located outside of the body.
The strength of the magnetic field varies with distance from the coil and the sensor’s position within the digestive tract can be calculated to within millimeters based on measurement of the magnetic field.
– Vibrating capsule –
While the ingestible sensor is still in the development phase, an Israeli company called Vibrant Gastro recently began marketing a vibrating capsule in the United States designed to relieve chronic constipation.
The drug-free Vibrant capsule is intended for constipation sufferers who have not received bowel relief after a month of laxative treatments. It has been FDA-approved.
In a Phase 3 clinical trial of 300 people, participants who took Vibrant had bowel movements significantly more frequently than those who took a placebo.
The Vibrant capsule produces gentle vibrations to stimulate the colon and increases the number and frequency of bowel movements, according to the manufacturer.
EU wants to know how Meta tackles child sex abuse
The EU on Friday demanded Instagram-owner Meta provide more information about measures taken by the company to address child sexual abuse online.
The request for information focuses on Meta’s risk assessment and mitigation measures “linked to the protection of minors, including regarding the circulation of self-generated child sexual abuse material (SG-CSAM) on Instagram”, the European Commission said.
Meta must also give information about “Instagram’s recommender system and amplification of potentially harmful content”, it added.
The investigation is the first step in procedures launched under the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), but does not itself constitute an indication of legal violations or a move towards punishment.
Meta must respond by December 22.
A report by Stanford University and the Wall Street Journal in June this year said Instagram is the main platform used by paedophile networks to promote and sell content showing child sexual abuse.
Meta at the time said it worked “aggressively” to fight child exploitation.
The commission has already started a series of investigations against large digital platforms seeking information about how they are complying with the DSA.
It has sought more information from Meta in October about the spread of disinformation as well as a request for information last month about how the company protects children online.
The DSA is part of the European Union’s powerful regulatory armoury to bring big tech to heel, and requires digital giants take more aggressive action to counter the spread of illegal and harmful content as well as disinformation.
Platforms face fines that can go up to six percent of global turnover for violations.
US judge halts pending TikTok ban in Montana
A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked a ban on TikTok set to come into effect next year in Montana, saying the popular video sharing app was likely to win its pending legal challenge.
US District Court Judge Donald Molloy placed the injunction on the ban until the case, originally filed by TikTok in May, has been ruled on its merits.
Molloy deemed it likely TikTok and its users will win, since it appeared the Montana law not only violates free speech rights but runs counter to the fact that foreign policy matters are the exclusive domain of the federal government.
“The current record leaves little doubt that Montana’s legislature and attorney general were more interested in targeting China’s ostensible role in TikTok than they with protecting Montana consumers,” Molloy said in the ruling.
The app is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance and has been accused by a wide swathe of US politicians of being under Beijing’s tutelage, something the company furiously denies.
Montana’s law says the TikTok ban will become void if the app is acquired by a company incorporated in a country not designated by the United States as a foreign adversary.
TikTok had argued that the unprecedented ban violates constitutionally protected right to free speech.
The prohibition signed into law by Republican Governor Greg Gianforte is seen as a legal test for a national ban of the Chinese-owned platform, something lawmakers in Washington are increasingly calling for.
The ban would make it a violation each time “a user accesses TikTok, is offered the ability to access TikTok, or is offered the ability to download TikTok.”
Each violation is punishable by a $10,000 fine every day it takes place.
Under the law, Apple and Google will have to remove TikTok from their app stores.
State political leaders have “trampled on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves, gather information, and run their small business in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment,” ACLU Montana policy director Keegan Medrano said after the bill was signed.
The law is yet another skirmish in duels between TikTok and many western governments, with the app already banned on government devices in the United States, Canada and several countries in Europe.
Meta sues US regulator to stop privacy settlement change
Meta filed a lawsuit late Wednesday arguing that US regulators planning to change the terms of a 2020 privacy settlement are overstepping their authority and should be stopped.
The Silicon Valley tech giant, known as Facebook when the $5 billion settlement was made, said that aspects of the Federal Trade Commission’s very structure violate the US Constitution, making its proceeding against Meta unlawful.
Meta contended in a filing to a federal court in the US capital that the situation amounted to it being “subjected to an illegitimate proceeding led by an illegitimate decision maker.”
The FTC in-house actions make it both prosecutor and judge, denying Meta due process under the law and usurping the power of the courts, the company argued in its filing.
In May the agency proposed changes to its 2020 privacy order with Facebook, accusing the company of failing to live up to the terms.
“Facebook has repeatedly violated its privacy promises,” FTC’s bureau of consumer protection director Samuel Levine said in a release at the time.
“Facebook needs to answer for its failures.”
The 2020 privacy order required Facebook to pay a $5 billion civil penalty, expand children’s privacy protections and have an independent third party assess the effectiveness of its efforts.
Proposed changes to the settlement include prohibiting Meta from profiting off data it collects, including through virtual reality products, from users younger than 18 years old, according to the FTC.
Another proposed change would bar Meta from launching new products or services without an assessor confirming in writing that its privacy program is in full compliance.
Meta urged the court to stop the FTC from proceeding with the changes.
“Meta respectfully requests that this court declare that certain fundamental aspects of the commission’s structure violate the US Constitution,” the tech firm said in the filing.
The FTC is seeking to impose broad restrictions on how companies such as Meta use their intellectual property, the lawsuit contended.
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