Wednesday, 16 February, 2011

Wi-Fi Medicine

Researchers in Boston have developed a system that has taken drug delivery to a whole new level: wireless. The system works with a small, stamp-sized chip implanted into the body. This chip contains 100 reservoirs of medicine that are released at different intervals depending on need. The chip can be monitored and controlled wirelessly. Forgetting to take your daily pills would never be an issue.

The system has been used successfully in dogs for the past six months and MicroCHIPS Inc. is saying that it should begin human testing within five years.

Medicines can't work effectively if patients don't follow their dosing schedule — a problem researchers hope to overcome by delivering drugs using an implanted microchip linked to a wireless control outside the body.

Researchers for MicroCHIPS Inc. say they've successfully controlled drug doses for up to six months in dogs that received implants in an experiment. Inside the implants were postage stamp-sized microchips containing 100 tiny reservoirs of medicine released at different intervals and amounts.

The privately held company says its first test in humans is likely three to five years away and could involve implanted sensors that would monitor a patient's circulatory system or blood glucose to manage heart disease or diabetes.

A system to release drugs in solid, liquid or gel form could come later, perhaps initially involving a medicine that isn't easily absorbed into the bloodstream when taken orally, said John Santini, president of Bedford-based MicroCHIPS.

The tests, which follow more than a decade of work by MicroCHIPS with help from two professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, were reported Monday in the online edition of Nature Biotechnology.

Other internal drug-delivery methods already are on the market, from insulin pumps to so-called "passive" drug implants that can't be externally controlled.

MicroCHIPS' system is far smaller than insulin pumps — its experimental implant is about the size of a small cookie, and comparable in size to an implantable heart defibrillator. The system also is unique because it uses a wireless device that potentially could control the release of multiple drugs from a single implant in the abdomen, while also monitoring drug levels and adjusting dosing accordingly, Santini said.

The experimental method shows great promise, said Dr. Henry Brem, a Johns Hopkins University neurosurgeon who has experimented with MicroCHIPS-developed chips in government-sponsored research to treat brain tumors in rats.

"It will allow not only targeted therapy, but make the treatment delivery independent of people remembering to take their medicine," said Brem, who said he has no commercial ties to MicroCHIPS.

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