December 02, 2007
Implanted Microchip Dispenses Drugs

Some day most people will have embedded microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) drug dispensing devices in them.

After nearly a decade of working on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) for medical implants, a startup based in Bedford, MA, called MicroChips has prototypes for its first commercial products. By the beginning of January, the company plans to start animal trials of a device for healing bones damaged by osteoporosis. In a year and a half, it hopes to begin human trials on an implant for monitoring glucose levels in diabetics.

The first product, a device for delivering an anti-osteoporosis drug automatically, could allow patients to replace 500 daily injections with a single outpatient implant procedure. The glucose sensor, by continuously monitoring glucose levels, could reveal spikes in blood-sugar levels that go undetected using conventional sensors. Such spikes, if not treated, can contribute to organ damage, including blindness.

MEMS devices will become fancier with more built-in sensors and more elaborate algorithms for dispensing drugs. Eventually external instructions sent via radio signals will be able to control drug dispensing.

There's a future genetic engineering step that goes beyond MEMS and will reduce the need for MEMS: Livers and other tissue will get genetic engineering done to them to turn them into synthesis factories for drugs. That will eliminate the need for periodic replacement of MEMS chips. But genetic engineering won't be appropriate for delivering chemicals that have complex synthesis steps that aren't easily replicated inside of biological cells. So MEMS will have a future even once gene therapy becomes very powerful.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 December 02 08:43 PM  Biotech Embedded Devices

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