Remote-Controlled Drug Delivery Implant Can Improve Chronic Disease Management

A Bluetooth-enabled drug delivery technology could vastly improve chronic disease management in the future, according to a recent paper published in Lab on a Chip.
Nanomedicine researchers from Houston Methodist successfully tested their new technology, a nanochannel delivery system (nDS), which they remotely controlled to administer long-term delivery of drugs.
Patients with chronic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and heart disease, often take medications that are administered at specific times of the day and require varying dosages. With strict dosing schedules, there is often a risk of treatment interruption or nonadherence that can affect efficacy and safety.
Innovative drug delivery systems are often cited as the future of health care medication management. The flexibility of implantable devices to adapt to a patient’s specific treatment needs could significantly reduce nonadherence. Not only can this technology improve patient care, but it can subsequently lead to decreased health care costs as well, according to the study authors.
To adapt, the nDS provides continuous, predetermined dosages that are tailored to each patient. According to the researchers, the implant also delivers the drugs long term, often for many months or even a year before refills are needed.
“We see this universal drug implant as part of the future of health care innovation,” corresponding author Alessandro Grattoni, PhD, chair of the department of nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute, said in a press release. “Some chronic disease drugs have the greatest benefit of delivery during overnight hours when it’s inconvenient for patients to take oral medication.”
According to the paper, the battery-powered grape-sized implantable device contains a microchip that relies on wireless communication. The researchers demonstrated the release modulation of 2 chronic disease drugs: enalapril and methotrexate, which are first-line therapies for hypertension and RA, respectively. To allow for adjustable administration, they programmed the microchip for 3 different drug release settings: standard, decreased, and increases. For each setting, a specific voltage was applied to a silicon nanochannel within the implant to control drug release.
“By leveraging a low intensity electric field to modify the concentration driven diffusion across a nanofluidic membrane, the rate of drug administration can be increased, decreased, or stopped via Bluetooth remote command,” the researchers wrote in the paper.
Additionally, the implant’s continuous drug administration helps avoid abrupt fluctuations, which could affect response and tolerability.
The researchers said they hope that the technology could eventually be widely available to health care providers to treat patients remotely via telemedicine. The technology is planned for extreme remote communication testing on the International Space Station in 2020.
“Our system could set the foundation for an on-demand delivery platform,” the researchers concluded.  
Trani ND, Silvestri A, Bruno G, et al. Remotely controlled nanofluidic implantable platform for tunable drug delivery. Lab on a Chip. 2019. 

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