It’s a fascinating voyage: A patient swallows a capsule. Once it reaches the stomach, the capsule dissolves and the thin strip inside unrolls and adheres to the stomach lining.

Canan Dagdeviren, who leads the “Conformable Decoders” team at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Mass., likens her team’s device to “a Fitbit for the stomach.”

“You see how your stomach is doing while you are eating, while you are sleeping, while you are talking, while you are under stress or you’re happy,” she said.

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The goal is to one day use the device to diagnose and treat motility disorders, those that affect the gastrointestinal tract.

There are other examples of how Dagdeviren’s researchers, in a one-of-a-kind laboratory, are coming up with devices that essentially listen to patients’ bodies.

“The physical patterns of human beings contain information in coded ways, and we would like to decode and understand what these patterns are telling us,” she said.

The researchers are working on a number of devices that integrate with the human body and relay messages from our organs. By making them flexible, or “conformable,” they hope that the devices will be comfortable enough to be used for long periods of time — and therefore gather more data.

Watch our short video above to learn more about these devices, the lab in which they are being developed, and the 19th-century discovery that led to today’s technology.

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