‘Pharmacy on a chip’ gets closer


Jonathan Amos

By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News, Vancouver

Implant device

The futuristic idea that microchips could be implanted under a patient’s skin to control the release of drugs has taken another step forward.

US scientists have been testing just such a device on women with the bone-wasting disease osteoporosis.

The chip was inserted in their waist and activated by remote control.

A clinical trial, reported in Science Translational Medicine, showed the chip could administer the correct doses and that there were no side effects.

The innovation has also been discussed here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

One of the designers, Prof Robert Langer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), claimed the programmable nature of the device opened up fascinating new avenues for medicine.

“You could literally have a pharmacy on a chip,” he said. “This study used the device for the treatment of osteoporosis. However, there are many other applications where this type of microchip approach could improve treatment outcomes for patients, such as multiple sclerosis, vaccine delivery, for cancer treatment and for pain management.”

The work is described as the first in-human testing of a wirelessly controlled drug delivery microchip. The technology at its core has been in development for more than 15 years.

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