Kitchen cupboard staples used in sensors for detecting digestive disorders

Vegemite and marmite

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Toxicity shouldn’t be an issue for medical devices made from Vegemite or Marmite

Love it or hate it, Marmite might have a place in medicine. Scientists in Australia have used this British favourite, along with Vegemite and jelly, in electrodes for hydrogel-based devices that assess digestive problems in patients.

Stomach-related health problems are increasing: stomach cancer is the second deadliest cancer and 76.6% of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are undiagnosed. Traditional methods of detecting these illnesses, such as endoscopy, colonoscopy and surgery, are often invasive and unpleasant. One alternative is to use small devices, known as electronic capsules, that pass easily through the digestive system. However, researchers must make them using materials that will not damage the human body.

To achieve this, Holly Warren and colleagues at the University of Wollongong transformed everyday food products into edible hydrogel electrodes, that they used as components in medical sensing devices. The high salt content of Marmite and Vegemite makes them good conductive materials for this purpose. They also used jelly, which is low in salt, and made it much more conductive than either Marmite or Vegemite by adding salt to it. They could use these particular sensors to detect pressure abnormalities in the stomach.