A variety of different gas byproducts are created when the microbes in our gut break down food. Measuring these gases can offer clinicians a valuable tool in understanding the health of our gastrointestinal system. These gaseous biomarkers can signal the presence of gut disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and ulcerative colitis.

Currently, other than an invasive tube insertion, the only way to test for these gases is by breath measurements. This, of course, results in incredibly diluted samples and often inconsistent results.

"We know breath tests suffer from high rates of false positive and false negative diagnoses and we know that gas concentrations in the gut are up to 10,000 times higher than those in the breath," explains Kyle Berean, one of the researchers developing the capsule.

The new Atmo gas capsule offers an entirely novel and non-invasive way to test a patient's gastrointestinal system. The capsule, already proving safe and effective in early human trials, is swallowed with a standard meal. It then continuously transmits data to an external small receiver until it is expelled. The data is transferred from the receiver to a smartphone app via Bluetooth allowing a physician to instantly monitor the results.

"By measuring the hydrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen produced by the gut directly at the source, our capsule offers vastly more accurate results and unprecedented signal to noise ratios, compared with breath testing," says Berean.

Current trials suggest the capsule is a remarkable 3,000 times more accurate than a breath test and the researchers are confident the range of gases and compounds that can be measured could greatly expand in the future. Measurements of short chain fatty acids, for example, could be included offering an incredibly valuable and unique insight into the functioning of a person's gut microbiome.

The new partnership with Atmo Biosciences is designed to help accelerate commercial development of the capsule, rapidly progressing the innovation through final human trials and bringing the device to market. At this stage it is estimated the Atmo gas capsule could be in the hands of doctors – or more accurately the guts of patients – by 2022.

According to newatlas