The administration of drugs in tablet or capsule form has continued pretty much the same for over a 100 years. This could, however, change quite quickly. Researchers from MIT, Draper, Brigham and Women’s Hospitals have developed an advanced 3D-printed capsule that can be controlled with the aid of Bluetooth technology. The capsule has been designed to be swallowed by a patient, after which it can send and receive information from outside the body. It can also be instructed to gradually release drugs over a longer period of time, as a reaction to symptoms.
The researchers have tested this smart pill with pigs. The small Y-shaped capsule communicated via Bluetooth the core temperature of the pig and was triggered to deliver a timed drug release.
The researchers have developed two scenarios for the application of the pill. In one scenario it could check the body temperature of a person over a period of several weeks, looking for signs of hypothermia (low body temperature) or hyperthermia (too high a body temperature). If either of these was detected it could release a drug to help with early intervention. In another scenario it could be used for checking the temperature of patients with a high risk of infection such as HIV or malaria.
The Bluetooth capsule has a limited signal strength (one arm's length) to prevent undesirable connections and protect the privacy of the data. The researchers used 3D printing technology to enable the practical manufacture of such a complex pill. Different parts of the capsule were integrated in layers of stiff and flexible polymers, so that the capsule would be better protected against the acid environment of the stomach.
The researchers intend to continue their research by developing a wider set of sensor systems, to measure more than just body temperature.
It looks like that this kind of science fiction technology is not quite as far away as we used to think!
Source: MIT News