A team of researchers from from MIT, Draper, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital developed a revolutionary way to deliver drugs to the specific area of patient’s body wirelessly. The medication is delivered with a new 3D printed ingestible capsule that can be controlled using Bluetooth technology.

The 3D printed capsule remains in the stomach for at least a month and is able to transmit information. The Capsule can respond to instructions from the user’s smartphone using Bluetooth Technology.

Benefits of 3D Printed Ingestible Capsule:

  • It could be particularly useful in cases where medication must be taken over a long period.
  • 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 Making of 3D Printed Ingestible Capsule:

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 fold-able 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. 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 the researchers were successfully able to monitor the temperature and transmit that information directly to a smartphone.

Future of 3D Printing in Medical Field:

3D printing technology grants the researchers the ability to design freely making it easy to incorporate the various components embedded within the capsules. 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 multi-component 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.

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. 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 immuno-suppressive drugs could benefit from this real-time monitoring.

The research, was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, was recently published in Advanced Materials Technologies.

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