If you’ve been taking any kind of medication over a long period of time, you know that it can be difficult just to remember to take it every day. That becomes an even bigger issue if you need to take it at the same time each day. For people with conditions that affect memory, such as Alzheimer’s disease, caretakers have to ensure that their medication is taken regularly. It’s unsurprising that many issues arise from people taking too much or too little of their medication. But this tiny medical implant developed by researchers from Houston Medical can reliably deliver drugs over a long period of time.
This medical implant is roughly the size of a U.S. quarter, and is designed to be placed under a patient’s skin. It can be filled with various kinds of medications designed to prevent or treat everything from HIV to diabetes. Once implanted, it can be controlled wireless from a smartphone or other device via a Bluetooth connection. Medication can be delivered on a consistent dosage, or by increasing or decreasing doses. Depending on the dosage required, the implant can continue to deliver drugs for up to a year before it needs to be replaced or removed.
The key to this medical implant’s small size and long battery life is in how the medication is actually delivered. Other devices, like insulin pumps, rely on mechanical pumping to inject the medication into a patient’s body. That pump increase the bulk of the device, and also requires a significant amount of power. Instead of using a pump, this implant uses silicon nanachannels to draw the medication towards a nanofluidic membrane using small amounts of electricity. Once the medication reaches that membrane, it can be absorbed by the body. This technology could dramatically improve the regularity of drug delivery, and is set to be tested in space on the International Space Station in 2020.