How does it work?
Gastroenterology clinicians and researchers from Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre together developed ‘Magic Bean’ mini capsules.
These mini capsules comprise medical-grade plastic shells encasing a MRI-visible liquid. The mini capsules can be easily swallowed by children as they are smaller than tic tacs. As the capsules do not dissolve in the gut, they can be visualised and tracked using MRI scanning.
This enables clinicians to capture accurate information on how long it takes food to pass through the gut, making it considerably easier to manage constipation in children and determine the underlying causes.
Lead researcher in the development of the Magic programme, Dr Luca Marciani highlighted the clinical and practical improvements they set out to achieve:
We wanted to design an accurate and objective way of measuring gut transit time to help doctors make a faster and more informed choice of treatment, for example, whether to prescribe medicine that stimulates gut muscles or psychological therapy. This could speed up treatment and improve outcomes for children and their families as well as saving money in the NHS.
The results so far
Following the successful trial of the Magic programme in adults, a trial of 50 children and young people, half with constipation and half without, was carried out in Nottingham. Each participant received 3 sets of 24 mini-capsules, which were swallowed with yoghurt or water over the course of 3 days. On day 4, participants had a MRI of their gut, with another on day 7 if capsules were detected in the first scan.
To date the study has been a success with the mini-capsules successfully imaged in the body, an excellent safety record and participants accepting the study procedures well.
A larger study of over 400 children with constipation is to be carried out in partnership with Pentland Medical to further demonstrate the advantages of the Magic programme in a clinical setting.