Image 1 - Osteoporosis Patients Receive Medication From Implanted Microchips
February 17, 2012

Osteoporosis Patients Receive Medication From Implanted Microchips

Seven Dutch women suffering from osteoporosis received bone-strengthening medication from implanted microchips as part of a first-of-its kind study of wirelessly controlled drug-releasing devices, according to research published Thursday in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

According to Lauran Neergaard of the Associated Press (AP), the study, which was funded by Massachusetts-based implantable drug delivery device developer MicroCHIPS, Inc and headed up by MIT professors Robert Langer and Michael Cima, "is believed the first attempt at using a wirelessly controlled drug chip in people."

"If this early-stage testing eventually pans out, the idea is that doctors one day might program dose changes from afar with the push of a button, or time them for when the patient is sleeping to minimize side effects," Neergaard added.

Typically, osteoporosis patients need to use daily injection pens to receive their medication, which according to an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) press release is not only a psychological burden on the patient, but the medicine also needs to be refrigerated and patients that suffer from arthritis of other physical issues might have difficulty self-administering the drug.

The implanted microchip would alleviate those problems by releasing medication when commanded by an external wireless mechanism. The drug would be released quickly into the patient's bloodstream similar to an injection, and not over time like many drug delivery devices. Furthermore, in addition to being an easier and more convenient way to receive the medication, it could also potentially be cheaper than prefilled daily injection pens, the AAAS said.

In a statement, Langer suggested that the study could point to the dawn of what MIT refers to as "a new era of telemedicine," with health care delivered over long distances.

“You could literally have a pharmacy on a chip,” Langer, an MIT professor and a board member of MicroCHIPS, said. “You can do remote control delivery, you can do pulsatile drug delivery, and you can deliver multiple drugs.”

“Patients will be freed from having to remember to take their medication and don´t have to experience the pain of multiple injections,” added co-author Robert Farra, President and Chief Operating Officer of MicroCHIPS, in a separate statement.  “Physicians will be able to seamlessly adjust their patients´ therapy using a computer or cell phone."

During the trial, the seven women, all of whom were postmenopausal osteoporosis patients between the ages of 65 and 70, received treatments of the osteoporosis drug teriparatide through a microchip implant instead of through daily injection.

According to AFP, the women had the microchip implanted just below their waistlines, and researchers studied their progress for a period of 12 months. They discovered that the microchip delivered the drug just as effectively as the daily injections did, and that the treatment "improved bone formation and reduced the risk of bone fracture, and delivered the drug just as effectively as daily injections."

The research was presented at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver on February 16.

According to the scientists, the drug that was released from the microchip "demonstrated similar measures of safety and therapeutic levels in blood to what is observed from standard, recommended multiple subcutaneous injections of teriparatide." All patients were monitored for biological responses to the implant and toxicity levels.

Langer told Julie Steenhuysen of Reuters that the device could ultimately be used for other types of injectable drugs, especially in cases where patients sometimes neglect to take their medications regularly -- as is the case sometimes among osteoporosis patients who Steenhuysen said occasionally skip drug doses because they are uncertain whether or not the injections are impacting their bone density.

The technology "gives physicians a real-time connection to their patient's health, and patients are freed from the daily reminder, or burden, of disease," Langer told AFP on Thursday.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School, OnDemand Therapeutics Inc and Case Western Reserve University also participated in the study, which began in January 2011. According to the AAAS press release, MicroCHIPS, Inc hopes to have the devices on the market in approximately five years' time.


Image 2: The drug delivery device (on right) next to an everyday computer memory stick. Courtesy of MicroCHIPS, Inc., Massachusetts


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