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Implant offers pill-free future

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Details of a world-first wireless-operated implant to control the release of therapies have emerged. It's hoped the device will herald a new era for patients reliant on regular and precise doses of molecules that have limited stability, or are very potent.

Publishing in Nature Biotechnology, researchers at biotech start-up MicroCHIPS worked with MIT professors to actively control 100 tiny reservoirs on the cookie-sized implant containing solid, liquid or gel drugs. The reservoirs are capped with a platinum-titanium membrane that erodes in response to an electrical current. The rest of the system comprises off the shelf wireless components and a custom software suite.

Johns Hopkins University neurosurgeon Dr. Henry Brem, who has experimented with the technology to treat brain tumors in rats told AP it was showing great promise.

The plan now is to identify a range of "difficult to deliver" drugs that could exploit the technology. Insulin-dependent diabetics would represent a huge potential cash cow for MicroCHIPS. Human trials for the device are pencilled in within five years. ®

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