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Computer-cooling devices used to treat digestive illness

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Patients with digestive problems are being aided by a treatment that uses technology designed to cool down computers.

It is hoped the device will allow health professionals to offer tailor-made treatment by detecting temperature changes in a patient’s oesophagus.

Previous studies have shown people with digestive disorders can develop heat sensitivity in some of their nerves a few degrees lower than in people without such disorders.

Now scientists at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, have adapted ‘Peltier’ technology used in computers in order to measure patients’ sensitivity to temperature changes.

The new device is inserted into the throat, without the need for surgery, and heated up. Once the patient can feel a heat sensation, they push a button and the temperature of the device is recorded.

After around 30 to 45 minutes after recording responses, experts can calculate treatments specifically targeted at controlling this nerve sensation.

Oesophageal disorders range from reflux and chronic heartburn to aggressive oesophagus cancer.

Healthcare scientist, Dr Jonathan Reeves, from The Royal London’s clinical physics unit, said: ‘What we need is new sensory testing techniques to better understand the underlying mechanisms of oesophageal pain.’

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