6 June 2021


This could be used to help the estimated 1.5% of the UK population who suffer from faecal incontinence, allowing them to manage the condition and lead more active, confident lives.

These discreet digital sensors would sit in the large intestine and track the movement of stools, acting as an early warning system.

The project is led by Dr Michael Crichton at Heriot-Watt University and also involves researchers at The University of Manchester, University of Stirling, Sheffield Hallam University and The Glasgow School of Art. It is supported by a £400,000 grant through the sandpits call funded by EPSRC and MRC.

It is among 20 innovative projects supported by £30.8 million of funding by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). This funding aims to revolutionise healthcare, improve treatments for millions of people with a wide range of conditions and save the NHS money.

Dr Crichton said:

“People’s lives are badly affected by faecal incontinence, and it’s compounded by the fact that few people feel comfortable or confident to talk about the issue.

“Discreet digital technologies could help people monitor and manage their bowel condition and have more active, confident lives.

“We’re designing a flexible sensor that could be mounted on the large intestine. It will measure how the tissue moves and strains during bowel movements, the actual mechanical movements.

“The sensor will track the stool as it moves through the body, and turn the data into an early warning system for the user.”

We believe that patient and public involvement needs to be at the heart of research from the very beginning, and we are delighted to have already provided an early stage focus group for this project. One of our PPI participants, Liz Pinney, said:

“The importance of involving patients like myself from the very start of a clinical project cannot be understated, and can save researchers precious time that might have been wasted on an interesting but completely impractical idea. Looking at a problem from the patient’s point of view, and gaining insight into their problems, can put a completely different slant on the researcher’s theories, and ultimately result in a product that could be of real benefit to those it is designed for.”