Healthy Living

Can Microchips Administer Medication?

Can Microchips Administer Medication?

A new idea of having an implantable microchip to deliver drugs on medication may replace daily injections and improve patient compliance in treatments. The new programmable device, discovered by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was tested on humans and the results presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The device releases the medication on command from an external wireless control.

“If proved to be effective, the device may one day help to treat conditions that require taking daily injections," says Robert Farra, the author of the study and chief operating officer of the company developing the drug-delivery device, MicroCHIPS Inc. This device is first of its kind and is successful in ensuring complete compliance.

The study was originally conducted on eight women participants who had severe osteoporosis and were required to take daily injections of a bone-building drug. Small drug-delivery microchips were implanted under the skin below the belt line of these participants during a 30-minute procedure. Each of the microchip contained 20 doses of the drug in small reservoirs. The device successfully delivered the daily doses of the medicine without any apparent side effects in seven of the participants. In one of the participants the device was found to not be working and was removed immediately.

All the participants reported that they could not feel the presence of the device under the skin and preferred to have the implantable microchip over daily injections for treatment. The company is now working on developing a microchip that can deliver the drug for a year or more. If further studies are successful, the device will be under clinical research within a few years.

The idea of a microchip to deliver the drug under command was developed by Michael J. Cima, professor of engineering at MIT. Cima hopes that this technology would be useful in delivering any potent drug and even multiple drugs for the treatment of different medical conditions. The device gives the added advantage of improving patient compliance in the treatment. Dosing of the drug can also be changed as per the requirement as these devices are programmed from outside.

This study is an important step to show that a microchip can be used in the treatment of different conditions. “There are still many more hurdles and years before this technology reaches the common man," says John T. Watson, professor of bioengineering at University of California, San Diego. He says that it is worth the wait for all patients with chronic medical conditions.