Houston Methodist researchers developed a nanochannel delivery system (nDS), remotely controlled using Bluetooth technology, that delivers continuous, predetermined medication dosages. The nDS device provides controlled release of drugs – without pumps, valves, or a power supply – for up to a year without a refill.
The technology provides long-term drug delivery for chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure, conditions that often require medication at specific times of the day or in varying dosages based on patient needs.
“Some chronic disease drugs have the greatest benefit of delivery during overnight hours, when it’s inconvenient for patients to take oral medication. This device could vastly improve their disease management and prevent them from missing doses, with a medical professional overseeing their treatment remotely,” says Alessandro Grattoni, Ph.D., chair of the department of nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute.
Current drug delivery devices rely on pumping mechanisms or external ports and typically need refills every few months, unlike the nDS device, which is implanted under the skin. The device has a nanofluidic membrane made with technology similar to what is used in the silicon semiconductor industry and allows drug dosage and schedule to be personalized. The implant delivers the drugs for many months, even a year, before refills are needed.
The battery-powered implant’s microchip is Bluetooth enabled for wireless communication and is programmed for three drug release settings – standard, decreased, and increased. Each setting has a specific voltage applied to a silicon nanochannel within the implant to control drug release.
Grattoni and the Houston Methodist researchers have worked on implantable nanochannel delivery systems to regulate the delivery of medications for healthcare issues ranging from HIV-prevention to cancer. To further explore the capabilities of the device, it will undergo extreme remote communication testing on the International Space Station in 2020.
The team hopes that the device will one day be widely available to clinicians to treat patients via telemedicine, which could provide improved quality of life for patients and reduce healthcare costs.