Continuous, fixed doses of chronic disease medications used for arthritis, diabetes and heart disease were successfully delivered with the help of grape-sized drug implant by the researchers from Houston Methodist using a nanochannel delivery system (nDS) that was remotely controlled by Bluetooth technology.
The nDS device provides controlled release of drugs without the use of pumps, valves or a power supply for possibly up to year without a refill for some patients. This technology will be tested in space next year.
A proof-of-concept paper recently published in Lab on a Chip explains how the Houston Methodist nanomedicine researchers accomplished long-term delivery of drugs for rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure, medications that are often administered at specific times of the day or at varying dosages based on patient needs.
Grattoni and the Houston Methodist researchers have worked on implantable nanochannel delivery systems to regulate the delivery of a variety of therapies for medical issues ranging from HIV-prevention to cancer.
As basic research progresses with the remote-controlled device, the Houston Methodist technology is planned for extreme remote communication testing on the International Space Station in 2020. The team hopes that one day the system will be widely available to clinicians to treat patients remotely via telemedicine. This could provide both an improvement in the patients' quality of life and a reduction of cost to the health care system.
The battery-powered implant contains a microchip that is Bluetooth enabled and relies on wireless communication. To prove the technology worked as planned, the microchip was programmed for three different drug release settings - standard, decreased and increased. With each setting, a specific voltage was applied to a silicon nanochannel within the implant to control drug release.
Current drug delivery devices, such as pain or insulin implants, rely on pumping mechanisms or external ports and typically need refills every couple of months. The Houston Methodist device is implanted under the skin and uses a nanofluidic membrane made with similar technology used in the silicon semiconductor industry. The drug dosage and schedule can be tailored to each patient, and the implant delivers the drugs for many months, even a year, before refills are needed.
According to the CDC, chronic diseases are among the most common, costly and preventable of all medical problems.