Chronic constipation and faecal incontinence are prevalent in the elderly and often lead to social isolation. Little is known regarding why these conditions occur with age; however they have been classified as functional bowel disorders. The number of clinical cases of chronic constipation and faecal incontinence will rise with the ageing population. Although these conditions are not terminal, they have a major impact on the patients' quality of life and often lead to social isolation. The development of the Sensopellet device will allow a means of linking the functional changes observed with recordings of signalling markers. Signalling molecules such as serotonin regulate the motility of the bowel, and therefore investigating alterations in these signalling molecules may help our understanding of these disorders.
The project ran from May 2012 - June 2013.
Within this project the major aim was to develop a sensor based device that could be used to monitor signalling molecules in the colon during motility. We aimed to develop a new medical device, known as the SensoPellet, which is a sensor based device moulded into the shape of a faecal pellet. This device was used to understand the process of normal defecation. The device consisted of carbon composite electrodes encased in a cavity moulded into the shape of a faecal pellet. This device was characterised for its suitability for conducting stable biological recordings in colonic tissue. Biological recordings allowed the means to simultaneously monitor serotonin levels and image the motion of the pellet to understand the process of terminal bowel motility.
The ability of the device to help us elucidate the process of normal defecation was important to understand what changes occur during the onset of age-related disorders or how colonic motility is altered by various therapeutic agents utilised at present.
During this study we were able to fully manufacture the components of the device using novel carbon-based materials to act as the sensor. We housed the sensor into a polymer based cavity that was shaped as an artificial faecal pellet thus would be suitable for biological assays. Various successful prototypes were developed and characterised. The device showed fit-for-purpose sensitivity, stability and reproducibility for biological measurements. Simultaneous recordings of faecal pellet motility and monitoring of signalling molecules were carried out to study if the device could function in the isolated colon. The device was able to show important functional knowledge about the relationship between motility and signalling and thus will provide key insight into how the bowel functions and how it may be targeted for drug treatment in the future.
Dr Bhavik Patel