Smart pills are becoming even smarter. In fact, the tech is so advanced that patients will be able to decide the amount of drug that enters their body remotely. According to a new breakthrough in electronic pills, the tech can now be used to fetch information as well as release drugs in the exact required measures, in response to smartphone commands.
A team of scientists at MIT has designed what they call an advanced ingestible sensor that can safely lodge in the stomach and communicate wirelessly with an ordinary device outside the body for several weeks.
How the New Capsule Works
Essentially, we can call it a 3-D printed electronic capsule because that is what best defines it. With regard to how it works, the pill is Bluetooth controlled and delivers drugs, as well as harvesting important medical data from the user’s body. The researchers claim their capsule can stay inside the body for a month, but can also be customized to lodge even longer according to the need.
During all this time, the device is designed to transmit and respond to medical-related instruction wirelessly, from the user’s or a doctor’s smartphone. The tech can be used to accomplish many other things besides drug delivery. It can sense infection, treat various diseases, and sense and respond to allergic reactions from other medications.
What keeps the capsule inside the stomach is a simple mechanism that helps change its shape after ingestion. That is, after the user swallows the capsule, it dissolves and immediately unfolds into a Y-shape that keeps it stuck inside the stomach for around a month, after which it disintegrates to be able to pass through the digestive tract.
The whole idea behind this technology is to strengthen both monitoring and treatment at the same time in patients. As such, the researchers say their system, through a signal, allows drug delivery and dose tuning to suit the real-time need.
They are also optimistic that since they use 3-D technology to print the pill, the capsule would be customizable to fit and solve different needs and situations.
“We are super excited that we can tweak our technology together with 3-D printing to come up with novel devices that simplify mobile health applications that actually work,” explained Robert Lager, one of the MIT research members and professor at Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.
The work, which now appears in Advanced Materials Technologies, had Traverso and Langer as senior authors, and Yong Lin Kong an MIT professor as the lead author of the paper.
What this Means for Drug Delivery and Discovery
Traverso, Langer, and the team have for the past several years been working on ingestible sensors that can effectively help deliver drugs in capsule form. Their take is to provide alternative drug delivery options that can replace drug injection as well as help patients who have to take medication for long periods. The first people to benefit from this concept may be HIV or malaria patients, with the reason being that they have to maintain a strict drug dosage regimen over a long time.
Besides that, the technique might also be beneficial when it comes to drug discovery. That is, researchers through the wireless control function would be able to regulate or be in charge of the amount of drug they want to enter into the user’s body as they monitor its effectiveness.
In terms of what we should expect the future of medicine to look like, this electronic pill definitely says a lot. In fact, with the rate at which technology is catching up with the medical world, we expect everything to be digital in a few years to come. As in, think of wearable technologies, artificial intelligence diagnosis, and similar technologies that have of late become prominent in the medical world.
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