Easily managed and safe for the body, the implant avoids surgical removal and constant reprogramming of equipment.
Although there are already many implants that dispense drugs inside the body, most of them are either not amenable to external control or have to be removed surgically. However, a new implant that uses light avoids both problems, writes New Atlas.
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Most existing drug-dispensing implants come in one of two forms.
One form degrades harmlessly over time so it doesn’t need to be removed, but it only delivers the drug at a given rate. This means that if the patient needs the implant to release more pain medication, for example at a certain time, there is no way to force it to do so.
Another form of implant can be activated remotely using radio signals or other means, but it contains electronic components that are not biodegradable. This means that if the patient does not want the device to remain in their body indefinitely, where it could potentially cause problems in the future, it will have to be removed in a repeat surgery.
The experimental device, developed by scientists at the Chicago lab and Northwestern University, combines the best features of both types of implants.
The current prototype is made from magnesium, molybdenum and a polyanhydride polymer, all of which are biodegradable, and consists of three drug-filled reservoirs, each built into a biodegradable battery. The battery anode seals the reservoir and is connected to the cathode via a phototransistor.
The electrical resistance of a phototransistor drops when it is exposed to light of a certain wavelength, which leads to a short circuit of the battery. As a result, the anode that closes the reservoir breaks down, allowing the drug to penetrate into the surrounding tissues.
Since the phototransistor of each reservoir is sensitive to different wavelengths of light, the implant is able to release drugs three times – each time using a different type of light. In laboratory tests conducted to date, the implant has been successfully used to release the pain medication lidocaine in rats. The light source consisted of three external LEDs of different colors, which shone through the skin of animals and subcutaneous tissues at the implantation site.
“This technology represents a breakthrough in addressing the shortcomings of current drug delivery systems, which could have important and far-reaching implications for everything from the opioid epidemic to ways to precisely deliver anti-cancer drugs,” said Dr. Colin Franz of the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, who led the study with Dr. Yamin Zhang and Dr. John Rogers of Northwestern University.
Previously, Focus wrote about the cyberpunk of tomorrow. Soon futuristic biocomputers using brain cells will become a reality.
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