A few years from now, when your doctor prescribes a prescription for you, you might not get a bottle of pills. Instead, your drugs might be delivered under your skin, from a small microchip. At least, that’s the promise of a new invention by MIT researchers Robert Langer and Michael Cima, who worked with MicroCHIPS, Inc. to develop a microchip capable of delivering prescription drugs to patients. The chip, which has been in development for over a decade, just completed its first human test, which it passed with flying colors.

Here’s how the chip works. It’s implanted underneath the skin of the patients (who, in the study, reported that they often forgot it was there.) The chip contains tiny reservoirs that the drugs are placed into. The reservoirs are sealed with a layer of platinum and titanium. When a current is applied to the seal, it melts, releasing the drugs into the patient’s bloodstream. The microchips are programmable, as well, so that the drug delivery can be automated.

In the study, the implants were used to deliver a drug to treat 7 women between the ages of 65 and 70 who suffer from osteoporosis. In all seven cases, the chip delivered the correct dose of drugs to the patients, and no adverse side effects were reported.

 

This is a huge benefit for patients with chronic diseases that require daily injections because it automates the process, thereby improving compliance. Let’s face it – most people wouldn’t be thrilled with the thought of injecting themselves with a needle every day. By vastly improving the process, people’s health will benefit.

“Compliance is very important in a lot of drug regimens, and it can be very difficult to get patients to accept a drug regimen where they have to give themselves injections,” said researcher Michael Cima in an MIT press release. “This avoids the compliance issue completely, and points to a future where you have fully automated drug regimens.”

The other benefit of using the microchip is that it can be equipped with biosensors, which means that a doctor can monitor how effectively the drug is treating the disease, and remotely program the device according to adjust to changing circumstances. Right now, the device can only be reprogrammed remotely at very short distances, but the company and researchers are working on improving that aspect.

“This trial demonstrates how drug can be delivered through an implantable device that can be monitored and controlled remotely, providing new opportunities to improve treatment for patients and to realize the potential of telemedicine,” said study co-author Robert Langer in MicroCHIPS’ press release. “The convergence of drug delivery and electronic technologies gives physicians a real-time connection to their patient’s health, and patients are freed from the daily reminder, or burden, of disease by eliminating the need for regular injections.”

The next step for the company is to develop therapeutic regimens for the chip that can work with other diseases. The company intends to apply for regulatory approval to use the devices in 2014.

Article Source Link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2012/02/19/your-next-prescription-might-be-for-a-microchip/

JP

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