The ‘smart pills’ run through the body to diagnose and treat diseases of the less-invasive.
The PillCam COLON, a pill, ingestible with a micro camera is intended to replace the colonoscopy.
Imagine receiving a message on the mobile with the diagnosis that you run the risk of suffering an imminent heart attack. And that such notification is not coming from your doctor, but a micro device that runs all through your body for potential warning signs to your health. Is it that you can make calls pills smart (smart pills), pills with sensors ingeribles able to diagnose and treat diseases inside the human body and that promise to be the revolution of the medicine wireless. You can already consume, literally, of this technology and reap its medical benefits.
“These devices are able to diagnose from discomfort benign, such as swelling or intestinal pain, up to different types of cancer”, argues in conversation with THE COUNTRY Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, an engineer in nanotechnology and professor of the RMIT University, in Australia. The scientist is the creator of a few capsules ingeribles (the size of a pill of vitamin) with sensors that travel through the gastrointestinal tract to measure gas levels and identify any disorder. This year, the invention has successfully overcome the first tests in humans and has been shown to perform measurements of gas more accurate than alternative techniques, such as breath tests.
Pills with sensors can perform measurements of pH, enzymes, temperature, sugar level and blood pressure. “These data allow us to have a multi-dimensional image of the human body,” says Kalantar-zadeh. One of the companies that work in that line is Scripps Health, which develops nanosensors able to travel the bloodstream and send messages to the user’s mobile phone with information about signs of infection or other cardiovascular problems.
A key finding of the initial tests was how safe is this type of technology. “The pills smart are harmless and there is no risk of retention of the capsules,” adds the expert. In the United States, the u.s. Food and Drug Administration (FDA, for its acronym in English) has already approved the ingestion of a type of a pill equipped with a micro camera as an alternative to colonoscopy. The PillCam COLON, which was created by an israeli company, is designed for patients who have difficulties to undergo invasive procedures due to problems of anatomy, previous surgery or disease. In these cases, the pill can be used to visualize remotely the gastrointestinal tract and the colon, and thus detect polyps and identify early signs of colorectal cancer.
Pills smart also propose new ways of administering medications. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have developed a pill that, once ingested, it adheres to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and slowly releases its contents over a period of two weeks. The pill is designed so that one side (made with a mucoadhesive polymer) is glued to the fabric, while the other, which has a special coating, repels food and liquids that otherwise turn away from the site of fixation. Scientists claim that these pills extended release may be used to reduce the frequency of dosing of some drugs, such as antibiotics, for example. “Could be adapted to many drugs.Any medication that is dosed with frequency could be compatible with that system,“ says Giovanni Traverso, a scientific affiliate at the Institute Koch of Integrated Research in Cancer at MIT. Traverso adds that the team is now focused on developing the administration of drugs in the long term for the treatment of malaria, HIV, tuberculosis and several neglected tropical diseases.
Fleet of devices in the human body
Experts believe that this technology “will provide the most significant change in our lives,” within the next five years. That the period estimated for the consumption of the pills popularized. The recent solution of one of the obstacles of the smart pills —the transmission of their exact location in the body for the user and the medical team— can accelerate the phenomenon. A group of engineers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has created a microchip of silicon of 1.4 square millimeters that can be coupled to the nanodevices to determine in what part of the body is found. Called ATOMS, the chip operates under the same principles as magnetic resonance imaging. “A key principle of this concept is that a gradient of magnetic field causes the atoms in two different locations resonate at two different frequencies, which makes it easy to know where they are. Our device mimics that behavior,“ explains the electrical engineer Manuel Monge, main responsible of the research.
ATOMS is still in the initial phase of development, but its creators already have a new goal in mind: to make it even smaller to get it to bodies difficult to access, such as the brain or the heart. “This would allow us to create new forms of diagnosis and new therapies for serious diseases,” says Monge. He and the other researchers envision in the future a fleet of nanodevices smart circulating within our bodies and telling us what is going on in our internal organs to tell them what they should do.
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