A new device that could transform the delivery of medicine to treat cancer, as well as a host of other diseases and ailments, is described in a new study by Lyle Hood, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). The device was developed by Hood in partnership with Alessandro Grattoni, chair of the Department of Nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute.
Hood explains that with most drug-delivery systems, the problem is that you have a specific minimum dosage of medicine that needs to be taken for it to be effective. The amount of the drug that can be present in your system also has to be limited so that it does not make you sick.
Because of these limitations, a person who needs frequent doses of a specific medicine needs to visit a doctor for injections, or take a pill every day. Hood’s new devices it a tiny implantable drug delivery system that eliminates the need for either of these approaches.
The capsule, filled with medicinal fluid, uses about 5000 nano channels to regulate the rate of release of the medicine. The device is implanted to fulfill its function. This allows the dosage of the proper amount of drugs to a person’s system, but the dosage is limited so that it does not harm that person.
The capsule is capable of delivering medicinal doses for several days or even a few weeks. Hood notes that it can be used for any kind of ailment that needs a localized delivery over an extended period. This makes it especially suitable for treating cancer. Grattoni created a larger version of the device, which can treat diseases like HIV for up to a year.
Hood notes that the HIV virus can be bombarded with drugs to the point that that person shows no symptoms in treatment and is no longer infectious. If a person stops taking their drugs, the danger is that the amount of medicine in his or her system drops below the effective dose and the virus can become resistant to the treatments.
The capsule can however prevent such an outcome by providing a constant delivery of the HIV-battling drugs. Hood added that the capsule could also be used to deliver cortisone to damaged joints to avoid frequent, painful injections. It is even possible to pursue immunotherapy treatments for cancer patients.
Immunotherapy delivers a cocktail of immune drugs to call attention to the cancer in a person’s body. This inspires the immune system to get rid of the cancer itself. The current prototype of the device is injected under the skin and is permanent. Hood, together with Teja Guda, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, are collaborating on 3-D printing technology to make a new, fully biodegradable version of the device that could be swallowed.