Many orally ingested medicines get absorbed or metabolized by the body before arriving at their final destination, the large intestine and are limited in their applications.
Researchers at Purdue University have developed an electronic pill, about the size of a large gel cap that can travel through the GI tract and release its cargo once it's far enough. The device doesn't propel itself, rather riding along with peristalsis.
"Usually, when you take medication it is absorbed in the stomach and small intestine before making it to the large intestine," said Babak Ziaie, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University. "However, there are many medications that you would like to deliver specifically to the large intestine, and a smart capsule is an ideal targeted-delivery vehicle for this."
The capsule is powered by a capacitor that is charged before use. A switch inside the capsule is activated by a magnet that could be worn on the patient's waist. As the capsule meanders through the intestines it eventually comes close to the magnet, activating the switch and releasing a spring-loaded mechanism that opens the capsule, which delivers the medication.
The release of the powdered drug cargo is enabled by the pre-charged capacitor and the opening of the chamber is activated using a magnet. In laboratory experiments, a magnet placed nearby the channel simulating the GI tract was used to open the drug chamber, but the researchers believe that in the future a wrist-worn magnet may end up being used since the hands are near the level of the large intestine when at rest.