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article imageImplantable remote control drug dispersion device tested in space

By Travis McKnight     Oct 24, 2014 in Health
Scientists are developing an implantable device that delivers therapeutic drugs as commanded by remote control. The device's effectiveness will be tested on animals aboard the International Space Station.
Huston Methodist Research Institute scientists are receiving roughly $1.25 million from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space to develop an implantable device known as a nanochannel delivery system (nDS), which delivers therapeutic drugs as directed by remote control. Animals aboard the International Space Station will be the first subjects to test the device.
"The prospect of developing and demonstrating a remotely controlled drug delivery implant excites us," said principal investigator and Department of Nanomedicine Interim Co-Chair Alessandro Grattoni, Ph.D., in a news release. "If we are able to show the technology works in vivo and is safe, it could have an enormous impact on drug delivery and patient care."
The nanochannel device is an 18 mm wide squat cylinder that contains a reservoir for drugs and a silicon membrane housing 615,342 channels as small as 2.5 nanometers, which are sized and shaped to control drug release. Surface electrodes on the device control drug dispersion by tuning into a radio frequency that in turn controls the various electrodes. By testing the device in space, it gives researchers a unique vantage point to determine its usefulness and reliability, especially concerning ailments like muscular atrophy.
"The nDS would enable telemedicine, reducing costs associated with hospitalization and travel for treatment," Grattoni said. "And in line with the CASIS mission, such technology could enhance other scientists' studies aboard the ISS. We also imagine other applications of the technology, such as military emergency care, pre-clinical studies of newly discovered drugs, and care for astronauts on long space missions."
Currently there are three technologies available that allow a patient to receive remote drug infusions: wearable external pumps, implantable multi-layered polymers that release drugs as they erode, and implantable, metal-gated devices.
While all three types are viable, they each have limitations. External pumps bring about a risk of infection around transdermal catheters, plus they can be inconvenient. Drug-lined polymers may cause an initial burst in drug release but can't be tuned once implanted. The current microchip-based devices may not be suitable for long term treatments, regardless of the drug storage space they contain.
Doctors and nurses have several reasons why they want control the rate of drug delivery. Some drug regimens are shown to work better or are better tolerated when administered at regularly-timed dosages, with rest periods in between. Additionally, the mix of hormones and other biological messengers changes in the body over the course of the day, and chronobiology studies by University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and others have demonstrated drugs can be more effective when delivered at specific times of day. Finally, doctors want the option to stop or start drug delivery quickly in response to changes in patients' health. A device like the nDS will allow any of these services to be completed remotely, potentially saving time and improving medical outcomes for patients.
Information for this report is gathered from materials supplied by Science Daily and Huston Methodist Research Institute.
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