Electronic Capsule can Deliver Medication Directly to the Gastrointestinal Tract

Electronic Capsule can Deliver Medication Directly to the Gastrointestinal Tract
Science & Medicine

Researchers at Purdue University have developed an electronic capsule that can deliver medication directly to the colon. The innovation could be a less expensive, more effective method for treating gastrointestinal diseases.

The inventors say the technology might one day be used to treat people with irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, which affects about 20% of the world’s population, and illness caused by the potentially deadly Clostridium difficile (C. diff) bacterium (which another newly-developed drug may finally tackle with success, if all goes well).

Patients with C. diff often undergo a fecal transplant into their large intestine. The transplanted fecal matter provides vital microbes. Babak Ziaie, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue, said that, theoretically, those microbes could be freeze-dried and turned into a powder and loaded into one of the electronic capsules.

The capsule is comprised of two parts: one section contains a drug payload, and the other houses the electronics. The device’s design is based on the same principles used to trigger a torpedo. It is powered by a capacitator that is charged before use. A magnet that can be worn on the patient’s waist activates a switch inside the capsule, releasing a spring-loaded mechanism that opens the capsule and ultimately delivers the medication just before it reaches the ileocecal valve, where the small and large intestines meet.

“When it gets there it will trigger the magnetic switch and it will discharge the capacitor and you have a fuse that basically blows up,” Ziaie explained.

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The prototype capsule is about the same size as a typical gelatin capsule.

It takes the capsule 8 hours to travel through the acidity of the stomach and 20 feet of small intestine before it reaches its final destination and unloads its drug payload.

Scientists had to make sure the device’s magnetic switch wouldn’t be triggered by the electromagnet signals emitted by cell phones and other gadgets. Patients can either wear the magnet or have it implanted.

“You have to be close. You have to be within a couple of centimeters. So for a lean person you can wear the magnet outside. But if someone is very obese it actually wont trigger from outside so you probably have to implant,” Ziaie said.

The researchers are working with a private biomedical company in the hopes of starting clinical trials. The team says that if the capsule reaches the markets, it could be made for just pennies. [1]


[1] Fox New