Smart Toilet Paper

A smart, disposable device to track your gut microbiome, with the goal of being both reliable and affordable.

Anesta Iwan Kothari (MDE ’19)

Project Type
Independent Design Engineering Project

Fall 2018 – Spring 2019

Project Advisors
Martin Bechthold
Rachel Carmody, Curtis Huttenhower, Peter Stark
Mary Tolikas

Although we frequent the bathroom to get rid of our bodily wastes, there’s a lot that we can gather about our health from our feces. There are over 100 trillion microbes that live within the human body (most of which reside in the intestinal track). Contrary to common belief, most of these bacteria contribute toward good health in terms of helping us digest foods, develop our immune system, and help the overall body systems function.

In a more specific case, current research shows how certain microbial communities within the body can inhibit the drug Digoxin and render the initial prescribed dosage to be inaccurate. Digoxin is typically used to treat patients with heart failures, however, because of its narrow therapeutic window, it is critical that it is administered at the right dosage.

Although the procedures and instruments used to analyze and measure the microbiome exist, they are complex and expensive and therefore inaccessible for most individuals who need to frequently monitor their microbiome to keep their dosage (of Digoxin) in check. This thesis seeks to find a simple and affordable solution that can effectively track the human microbiome for specific microbial
communities—using paper.

In parallel with the growing research in the field of microbiome, this research aims to expand its application to detect localized enteric pathogens, and eventually, more distant asymptomatic diseases from our fecal samples.

Smart Toilet Paper is notable for its high level of achievement in both design and technical/scientific rigor, showcasing how a student can use MDE to pivot into new fields while leveraging both high and low-tech innovation for practical and functional solutions.