Smart Pills Will Track Patients from the Inside Out

January 18, 2012

Science

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Proteus Biomedical’s smart pills, which are pills that include embedded microchips, are set to launch this year in the United Kingdom, with the collaboration of LloydsPharmacy. It was announced on January 13th that these pills would be able to monitor a patient’s use of medications.

Proteus Biomedical, a company based in Redwood City, California, will launch their Helius product, which includes sensor-enabled tablets, to monitor what medication patients are ingesting. Since it has been reported that compliance with doctor’s instructions has been lax and one of the main problems in prescription medication, there is a hope that this will alleviate the situation, especially in patients on multiple drugs.

zoom-chip-pill-proteusThe system has already been tested on hundreds of patients in different therapeutic areas, in tuberculosis, mental health, heard failure, hypertension, and diabetes. The company designed ingestible event markers, which can be taken with pills or incorporated directly into prescription medications. The embedded microchips will monitor the patient. LloydsPharmacy hopes to market this system to patients with chronic conditions, starting in September 2012.

The sensors are activated by stomach acid and are powered by two different metals, copper and magnesium, that generate a current. The voltage is created inside of a human body, and it’s enough to power the device and to send signals. The signal is detected by a device that attaches to the patient’s skin, which also monitors heart rate, respiration, and temperature.

NASA had developed ingestible sensors in the 1980s to monitor the core temperature of their astronauts. Some athletes have adopted these sensors as well. Researchers have also created sensors with cameras to create footage from inside the body.

[via Nature, images by Proteus Biomedical]

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