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Computer technology to help diagnose digestive disorders

Technology used to cool down computers is being adapted to help patients with heat sensitivity caused by digestive problems.

A miniature device, similar to a thermometer and based on Peltier technology used to cool down computers, will be used to treat patients who have developed heat sensitivity in some of their nerves in the oesophagus from conditions such as reflux and chronic heartburn.

It is known that people with digestive disorders have thermal sensitivity of tissue in the oesophagus a few degrees lower than in people without such disorders.

The device would be inserted into the throat, without the need for surgery, and heated up. Once the patient feels the heat they push a button and the temperature is recorded before being removed.

By detecting the temperature changes in the oesophagus doctors will be able to prescribe treatments to target and control the nerve sensation.

Healthcare scientist Dr Jonathan Reeves, from The Royal London's Clinical Physics Clinical Academic Unit, is working in collaboration with the team from neurogastroenterology.

Dr Reeves said: "Typically, Peltier technology is used to cool high performance components in computers so people may be surprised to hear that we are using this technique to help diagnose disorders of the oesophagus. There is no comparable existing product that provides the fine control and rapid changes in temperature that this technology delivers.

"Acid-related digestive disorders of the stomach are a burden on patients, the NHS, and society in general because they are highly prevalent, have varied signs and symptoms, and are costly to treat.

"By the end of the two years, we hope to have a tested thermal device ready to be trialled within a large scale clinical study."

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