Friday, February 17, 2012

Implant functions as wireless drug delivery system

Technology is getting more and more entwined with the medical world. Implants are finding their way into the patient, where they perform various functions. One of the first implants was the pacemaker, which has proven to be very successful. Now, scientists from MIT, in cooperation with a company called MicroCHIPS, developed a chip that enables doctors to wirelessly administer drugs to patients. This could make treatment easier and more precise.

The device can be loaded with multiple drugs, each of which can be programmed to administer the required dose at the required time. All it takes is pressing a single button. Because the chip supports a wireless communication protocol used in the medical industry, doctors can easily send their commands. Additionally, programming the chip makes it possible to deliver doses at set intervals automatically, which renders administering drugs to patients require a lot less work.
Clinical trials 
Scientists from MIT developed the chip about 10 years ago, but it took MicroCHIPS, that licensed the technology, a while to start up the first tests in humans. For their experiments, they used participants suffering from osteoporosis: a disease that decreases bone density, which makes them brittle. Patients require medication, which is normally administered orally or intravenously, by injection. During the clinical trials, researchers attempted to let the chip take over the role of drug delivery.

Implanting the chip did not seem to cause any problems or adverse affects, and was deemed to be safe. Effectively, drug release seemed to be up to par with daily injections. The chip did perform better when analysing the drug dose that eventually ends up in the bloodstream: by administering drugs with the implant, there was less variety in the corresponding dose response, and thus a more stable exposure, which is beneficial for the patient.

According to the scientists, using the implant for drug delivery has proven to be successful. Because it is programmable with different drugs, doses and time intervals, it can greatly reduce efforts to administer medicine to patients. An additional advantage is that by programming the drug release, one does not need to worry about compliance anymore. Normally, a certain percentage of treatments is negatively influenced by non-compliance, which is defined as non-adherence to the treatment protocol, for example by not taking your medicine (patient) or failing to deliver it (doctor).

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