- A wirelessly controlled ingestible capsule device
has been developed that is fitted with sensors and a drug delivery
- After ingestion, the device attaches to the stomach
wall and monitors the stomach environment and delivers medicines when
- The device can be used for early diagnosis of
diseases and timely treatment by prompt drug delivery
A new type of
ingestible capsule has been designed that can be controlled wirelessly with
Bluetooth technology. This novel capsule contains drugs and is fitted with a
sensor, which after swallowing becomes lodged in the stomach. It device can
release drugs or send signals about the surrounding environment of the stomach
directly to a smartphone held by the user.
The capsule has been
developed using 3D printing technology
and can be used to treat a
variety of diseases, particularly in cases where sustained drug release is
required such as for chronic diseases. It can detect the presence of
infections, allergic reactions, as well as other conditions and responds by
automatically releasing the drugs.
‘A new type of wirelessly controlled ingestible capsule has been developed, which deploys an electronic device that anchors to the stomach wall. The device is fitted with sensors that can monitor the internal environment of the stomach. It is also capable of drug delivery and can be operated using a smartphone.’
The technology has
been developed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(MIT), the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc., and Brigham and Women's
Hospital, Massachusetts, USA.
"Our system could provide closed-loop monitoring
and treatment, whereby a signal can help guide the delivery of a drug or tuning
the dose of a drug,"
says Dr. C. Giovanni Traverso, MB, BChir, PhD, who is
an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a
gastroenterologist at the Division of Gastroenterology, Brigham and Women's
Hospital, Boston, MA, USA. He is also a Research Affiliate at the Department of
Mechanical Engineering, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA and is one of the senior
authors of the paper.
The research team indicates that the
newly developed device can be linked to other devices and sensors that may be
attached to the body surface or implanted within the body. Then the collected
information from all the devices could be combined together and sent to the
patient's or doctor's smartphone, thereby providing a broader and complete
picture of the patient's health status.
Dr. Robert S.
Langer, BS, ScD, who is currently the David H. Koch Institute Professor at the
Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA and also one of the
senior authors of the paper, indicated that it was very exciting to be able to
demonstrate how 3D printing technology helped to develop novel ingestible
devices for use in patients, thereby facilitating the advancement of mobile
The study has been
published in the journal Advanced Materials
, a John Wiley & Sons publication. The study's lead author is Dr.
Yong Lin Kong, MA, PhD, who is currently an Assistant Professor at the
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah,
USA. While carrying out the study, he was a Postdoctoral Associate at the
Department of Chemical Engineering, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer
Research, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA.
The present study
is based on previous research that was carried out over a span of several years
by the same research group led by Langer and Traverso. During that time, they
had developed and tested several ingestible devices in the form of capsules
that were fitted with sensors and could also be used for drug delivery
purposes. These ingestible capsules were developed with the purpose of
delivering drugs over long periods of time, thus, averting the need for frequent
injections. These devices were designed to help maintain the strict drug
regimens that are required for treating diseases like HIV/AIDS
What's New in the Current Study?
In the previous
studies, the research team developed a device that had star-shaped arms that
could retract to fit into the tiny capsule.
In the new study,
they developed a device that opened-up into 'Y'-shaped arms
swallowed, the capsule dissolves, exposing the device bearing the 'Y'-shaped
arms that help to anchor the device to the stomach wall. The device can remain
in the stomach for approximately one month, after which it disintegrates and is
excreted through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract along with the feces.
In this new device,
one of the arms is fitted with four tiny compartments, which can be loaded with
various drugs. Since the drugs are formulated with a polymer, they can be
released in a sustained manner over a span of several days. The researchers are
optimistic that this drug-release process could, in the future, be controlled
remotely by a wireless Bluetooth connection attached to the user's smartphone.
In addition to
releasing drugs, the sensors in the device, "sample" the stomach contents and
sends back information to the smartphone through wireless connectivity.
Previously, the research team developed sensors that could record vital signs
such as heart rate and breathing rate. The new sensors can detect the
internal body temperature and relay signals to the user's smartphone held near
connection range is a desirable security enhancement,"
"The self-isolation of wireless signal strength within the user's physical
space could shield the device from unwanted connections, providing a physical
isolation for additional security and privacy protection."
How was the Electronic Device Fabricated?
The research team
used 3D printing technology to fabricate the device. This enabled the assembly
of the intricate and complex components of the device, which would otherwise
have been very difficult indeed. This technology is capable of assembling
alternate layers of flexible and stiff polymers to construct the outer surface
of the capsule. This makes the capsule strong enough to resistant the harsh
acidic environment of the stomach.
"Multimaterial 3D printing is a highly versatile manufacturing
technology that can create unique multicomponent architectures and functional
devices, which cannot be fabricated with conventional manufacturing
Kong says. "We
can potentially create customized ingestible electronics where the gastric
residence period can be tailored based on a specific medical application, which
could lead to personalized diagnostic and treatment that is widely
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing is a
computer-controlled process in which materials are added, layer by layer, and
then allowed to solidify to produce a three-dimensional (3D) structure. The
computer technology involves computer-aided design (CAD), which utilizes
digital model data for designing how the final product will look like. The
printing instructions come from a digital file controlled by a computer.
Since, the 3D
printing process involves adding successive layers of material to produce the
final product, it is also called additive manufacturing. Each of these layers
can be seen as a thin slice in horizontal cross-section of the finished
product. The main advantage of 3D printing
is that it enables
the production of complex, functional shapes of any shape and geometry that uses
less material than conventional manufacturing methods, thus making the process
much more robust.
What are the Potential Applications of These Devices?
Since, these types of
devices can be deployed inside the body; the sensors could help in the early
diagnosis of diseases
and the drug delivery mechanism could respond with
timely delivery of medicines.
For example, if infections are detected,
these can be counteracted with antibiotics, while in case of allergies
; quick detection can avert complications
by promptly delivering antihistamines. In this regard, Traverso indicated that
these types of electronic devices have great potential for serving as mobile
platforms for patient care.
The research team
plans to develop an advanced type of battery for these devices, which currently
uses a tiny battery, powered by silver oxide. They are exploring other
approaches such as using an externally-mounted antenna as a power source or
using the hydrochloric acid in the stomach for generating power.
The newly developed
temperature sensor has already been tested in pigs. The researchers are
optimistic that within a couple of years, it will be possible to start testing
these ingestible devices in humans.
The research was
funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) through the Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
- 3D - Printed Gastric Resident Electronics - (https://doi.org/10.1002/admt.201800490)