Tiny Bluetooth-Driven Implant Deliver Drugs for Chronic Disease Management

Tiny Bluetooth implant
Image credit: Houston Methodist

Patients suffering from chronic diseases must follow complicated dosing regimens when taking their medications. People taking drugs for arthritis, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease find it difficult to keep track of when it is time to take the next pill. Researchers at Houston Methodist hospital have now developed an implantable device that can deliver a drug on its own, precisely when needed, and at the accurate dosage.

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The nanochannel delivery system (nDS) device provides controlled release of drugs without the use of pumps, valves or a power supply for possibly up to year without a refill for some patients, reports Houston Methodist.

“We see this universal drug implant as part of the future of health care innovation. Some chronic disease drugs have the greatest benefit of delivery during overnight hours when it’s inconvenient for patients to take oral medication. This device could vastly improve their disease management and prevent them from missing doses, simply with a medical professional overseeing their treatment remotely,” said Alessandro Grattoni, Ph.D., corresponding author and chair of the department of nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute.

As basic research progresses with the remote-controlled device, the Houston Methodist technology is planned for extreme remote communication testing on the International Space Station in 2020.

Houston Methodist Hospital building
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Current drug delivery systems rely on pumping mechanisms or external ports and typically need refills every couple of months. The Houston Methodist device is implanted under the skin and uses a nanofluidic membrane made with similar technology used in the silicon semiconductor industry. The drug dosage and schedule can be tailored to each patient, and the implant delivers the drugs for many months, even a year, before refills are needed.

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The implant runs on battery and contains a Bluetooth-enabled microchip. The system relies on wireless communication.

To test this new technology, the researchers programmed the microchip for three different drug release settings—standard, decreased and increased. With each setting, a specific voltage was applied to a silicon nanochannel within the implant to control drug release.

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