MicroCHIPS is a company that hopes that their flash-drive sized microchips could be the way of the future for doctors looking for a better way to treat their patients. In a study published in early February, MicroCHIPS released their findings on a new study involving women with osteoporosis.
The study was the first human test of their microchip system. The microchip was implanted in the abdomen of volunteers and set to release a drug called teriparatide. This drug is one of the few treatments that has been shown to successfully help regrow bone in osteoporosis patients. Teriparatide was picked for the study because it is one drug that requires daily injections to be effective. So, while it is effective in treating osteoporosis, it is a course of treatment that many give up on because of the daily injections required.
Teriparatide was also selected due to the potency of the drug. Each dose is only a microgram, which allows the implant to carry a full regiment of treatments on board. This allowed researchers to gather much more data on the implants in action.
To make the chips work, MicroCHIPS had to invent a new method of delivery. This method coated the front of the chip in small squares that were then broken down into tiny platinum and titanium sealed wells. These wells, when introduced to a specific charge of electricity from the implant, would melt, dispensing the drug directly into the patient’s body. The drug could be released at a preset time or be released by command of the patient through a wireless device.
To ensure that the chips were secure and could not be hacked, the development team made use of the Medical Implant Communications Service band, which is the approved encoded frequency for any implant device. Once accessed, this coded frequency would only give access to the implant to those who had the password, adding another layer of protections for patients. The frequency allows for a two-way transmission of information, allowing a doctor or patient with the pass code to receive confirmation of dose distribution as well as allowing them to change the dosage amount.
While the study sample was small — a pool of only seven women, all of whom were suffering from extreme osteoporosis — the results looked promising. The women were implanted with chips that contained 20 doses of the drug. The test group had the implant for a year. During that year, they did not miss a single dose of the drug.
With promising results, Robert Langer, one of the lead researchers, wants to push the chip further. There is talk of making a chip with 365 doses to see how well it works over a much longer period of time. Another suggestion is to allow the chip to deploy multiple blood sensors. These sensors would give a reading of such things like blood sugar and cancer antibodies in the blood stream. These implants break down over time, but the new chip would allow for fresh sensors to be deployed when old ones break down.
This device has great potential for many patients that must constantly inject themselves with treatments; if these implants succeed beyond their initial testing, they could provide a new and improved method of drug distribution. These implants could very well become the pharmacies of the future, providing patients with any array of drugs following a simple command sent from a physician.