Wednesday, November 12, 2008

'Intelligent pill' prototype delivers drugs where needed

The Dutch electronics company Philips, a maker of Webcams and cordless phones, has invented a battery-powered, programmable drug capsule it calls the "iPill." The multivitamin-size "intelligent pill" also has a microprocessor in it and is designed to release its cargo of medicine at the specific spot in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract where it will do the most good, sparing the rest of the body from unnecessary exposure to the drug. So far it's just a prototype, but Philips is talking to drugmakers about using it on colon cancer and bowel inflammation.

The iPill has a wireless transmitter, but it plays no tunes. Instead, it sends dispatches about the temperature and acidity of its surroundings to an outside receiver as it travels through the GI tract over the course of a day or two. The acidity, measured by pH, of the gut decreases as the pill gets further from the stomach, and that allows researchers to pinpoint the place where the drug is needed. The plastic capsule contains a programmable microprocessor that turns on a miniature drug pump when the pH is right. The iPill can also receive signals from its outside controller.
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