Dubbed the Intelligent Pill or iPill, the new drug-delivery system packs a micropump and sensors that monitor the body's temperature and pH balance into one pill. If the body's temperature and pH reach certain levels, the iPill responds by pumping out more or less of its drug payload. It could be used to treat many ailments like AIDS or diabetes. [...]
The iPill's electronic gadgetry, 400 square micrometers in size, fills a space smaller than the area of 10 blood cells. It is encapsulated in a penny-size plastic casing that is resistant to stomach acids. Keeping the iPill small does, however, mean the device can only store one milliliter of drugs in its internal reservoir. But that should be enough for many drugs. [...]
Badawy's prototype iPill has an ARM VII microprocessor, and silicon-oxide sensors. The sensors feed information about the patient's body to the iPill's chip, which in turn controls the micropumps that squeeze out a drug dose. "When an electrical voltage is applied to the smart material of the pumps, the pumps expand and force the drug down a channel and out of the pill," Badawy said.
The system is powered by supercapacitors -- layers of metal that store up to four hours of power. Once the device does its work, it goes out the way of all solid human waste products, usually within one to three days. [...] "We are looking at ways to prolong the working time, and this is one of our biggest problems. We are looking for an alternative power source so it will last for 12 hours or one day," Badawy said.
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