Johns Hopkins Microdevices
The team of researchers and biomedical engineers designed and tested shape-changing microdevices that they say can mimic the way the parasitic hookworm affixes itself to an organism’s intestines.
Each “theragripper,” or dust-spec-sized microdevice made of metal and thin, shape-changing film and coated in a heat-sensitive paraffin wax, can potentially carry any drug and release it gradually into the body. Thousands of theragrippers can be deployed in the GI tract, the researchers say.
When the paraffin wax coating reaches the temperature inside the body, the devices close autonomously and clamp onto the colonic wall, which then causes the six-pointed microdevice to dig into the mucosa and remain attached to the colon, where they are retained and release medicine gradually into the body before they lose grip on the tissue and are cleared through normal gastrointestinal muscular function.
Results of an animal study in Science Advances found that the animals into which theragrippers were administered had higher concentrates of the pain reliever in their bloodstreams than the control group did. Funding for the study was provided by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
While this technology is still very much in its infancy, it’s one to keep an eye on.