For the first time, reportedly, researchers have successfully tested an implantable microchip device that is activated wirelessly to deliver controlled doses of drugs into the body over a prolonged period of time.
The technology comes from MicroChips, a privately held company specializing in implantable drug delivery and biosensors. The results of the study were described in a recent online edition of the journal, Nature Biotechnology.
The system is unique in its use of wireless signaling, its small size and its system of reservoirs allowing precise, efficient delivery of solids, liquids or gels.
This technology is expected to be most effective in delivering proteins, small molecules and other drugs that are highly potent, have limited stability and must be delivered in precise doses at specific times.
"This research is an important step toward development of novel drug delivery systems in which small devices filled with potent, therapeutic drugs are used to release medicines into the body as needed," said John Santini, Ph.D., president of MicroChips.
Santini, along with Massachusetts Institute of Technologys Dr. Robert Langer and Dr. Michael Cima began work on the concept of so-called "intelligent drug delivery devices" more than a decade ago.
Langer called the current research a "landmark" study. "One could envision that, some day, many of a patients drugs could be placed on a chip programmed to release needed doses at precisely the right times," he said.
The published research results review the testing of the implantable drug delivery system in six dogs; it provided doses on the command of a wireless signal from outside the body.
The company anticipates that a similar model will be ready for testing in humans within the next five years.
The scientists began the current research by developing microchips made of silicon, each the size of a postage stamp and containing 100 tiny "wells" or "reservoirs."
They filled the reservoirs with a model polypeptide drug known to be poorly absorbed when taken orally.
Each reservoir was capped with an electrically erodable membrane made of platinum and titanium. Filled chips were then sealed and connected to a titanium case containing electronic hardware, power and wireless connectivity.
Researchers also combined custom software with "off-the shelf" electronic components and a handheld wireless communication device for use in sending data back and forth.