Researchers from MIT, Draper, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a 3D printed ingestible capsule that can be controlled wirelessly to deliver drugs to patients.
A team comprised of researchers from MIT, Draper, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital is aiming to revolutionize the way that medication is delivered with a new 3D printed ingestible capsule that can be controlled using Bluetooth wireless technology. The newly developed device can be customized to deliver drugs and sense environmental conditions.
Residing in the stomach for at least a month, the 3D printed capsule is able to transmit information and respond to instructions from the user’s smartphone. It could be particularly useful in cases where medication must be taken over a long period of time or for patients that have a strict dosing regimen.
The researchers also claim that the 3D printed ingestible device can be engineered to sense infections, allergic reactions, and other immediate conditions, and then deliver treatment accordingly. Wearables or implantable medical devices can be used to communicate with the capsule, gathering information and sending it directly to the patient’s or doctor’s smartphone.
The recent development of this 3D printed capsule comes on the back of several years worth of research on ingestible sensors and drug delivery capsules. Back in 2016, the very same research team created a star-shaped capsule that had six foldable arms encased within a smooth capsule. After the capsule is swallowed, it dissolves and the arms expand outward, allowing the device to attach itself within the stomach.
With the new device, it similarly unfolds into a Y-shape after being ingested, enabling it to remain in the stomach for a month before it breaks down into smaller pieces and exits the body. One of the device’s arms is equipped with four small compartments that can be loaded up with different drugs that can be packed within polymers, allowing them to be released gradually into the patient’s system. In the near future, the scientists believe that they will be able to open the compartments remotely through wireless Bluetooth communication.
Sensors can also be mounted onto the device, enabling doctors and patients to monitor the gastric environment and relay information via smartphone. In their most recent research paper, the researchers were successfully able to monitor the temperature and transmit that information directly to a smartphone.
By using 3D printing technology, the team was granted with a lot of design freedom, making it easy to incorporate the various components embedded within the capsules. On top of that, 3D printing allowed them to alternate layers of stiff and flexible polymers, helping the capsule to resist the acidic environment of the stomach.
“Multimaterials 3-D printing is a highly versatile manufacturing technology that can create unique multicomponent architectures and functional devices, which cannot be fabricated with conventional manufacturing techniques. We can potentially create customized ingestible electronics where the gastric residence period can be tailored based on a specific medical application, which could lead to a personalized diagnostic and treatment that is widely accessible,” said Yong Lin Kong, a former MIT postdoc and lead author of the study.
All in all, the researchers believe that the device could be useful for long-term delivery of drugs that have to be injected, as well as for patients with conditions that require a strict dosing schedule, such as HIV and malaria. They also imagine that this kind of sensor could be utilized to find early signs of disease and quickly respond with the proper medication. For instance, patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or immunosuppressive drugs could benefit from this real-time monitoring.
The research, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, was recently published in Advanced Materials Technologies.