Researchers at Houston Methodist Hospital in the United States have successfully delivered predetermined and continuous doses of drugs using a nanosheet delivery system that controlled remotely using Bluetooth technology.
The nDS device provides controlled release of drugs without the use of pumps, valves or a power supply for possibly up to the year without recharging for some patients. The research will be tested in space next year.
The study, published in the journal Lab on a Chip, shows that the implant can be used for the prolonged supply of medications for rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure.
These drugs are often given at specific times of the day or in varying doses based on the needs of the patient, the researchers said.
"We see this universal drug implant as part of the future of health innovation," said Alessandro Grattoni of the Houston Methodist Research Institute.
"Some medications for chronic diseases have the greatest benefit of giving birth during the night, when it is inconvenient for patients to take oral medication," Grattoni said.
"This device can greatly improve disease management and prevent them from missing doses simply with a medical professional supervising their treatment remotely," he said.
Researchers have been working on implantable nanocannal delivery systems to regulate the delivery of a variety of therapies for medical issues ranging from HIV prevention to cancer.
As basic research advances with the remote control device, Houston Methodist technology is planned for tests of extreme remote communication on the International Space Station by 2020.
The team hopes that one day the system will be widely available for physicians to treat patients remotely via telemedicine.
This could provide both an improvement in patients' quality of life and a reduction in the cost to the health system.
The battery-powered implant contains a microchip that is Bluetooth enabled and relies on wireless communication.
To prove that the technology worked as planned, the microchip was programmed for three different drug release settings – standard, decreased, and increased.
With each adjustment, a specific voltage was applied to a silicon nanocanal within the implant to control the release of the drug.
Current drug delivery devices, such as pain or insulin implants, rely on pumping mechanisms or external doors and usually need recharges every two months.
The new 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 provides the drugs for many months, even a year, before refills are needed.