Next-Generation Smart Pills

Unless you have been living on a deserted island, you are aware of what miniature mechanical systems on silicon (MEMS) have achieved.  Since the first pill camera came out in 1999, scientists have been developing next-generation micro robots, and several interesting designs have appeared, such as self-propelled “spider” and “earthworm” devices that include magnetic remote control.  With these developments comes the promise of noninvasive diagnostic and therapeutic applications never seen before.

The first applications of a micro robotic will be in the GI track.  Dr. Braden Kuo, MD, internist and gastroenterologist, instructor at Harvard Medical School, assistant in medicine, Department of Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA, and a leading expert in GI diseases, summed it up and stated, “One of the key issues here is that performing tests in the GI track usually requires endoscopy, some conscious sedation, use of fluoroscopy, and prolonged monitoring by hospital personnel.  If the process becomes easier, it will open a whole area for treatment, which will impact the patient in a very positive way.”

Recent studies have focused on controlling the robot to the desired site with magnetic steering.  In these tests, robotic propelled capsules reached their targets 87% of the time; manual systems were only successful 37%.  This success rate will allow robotic-propelled capsules to be applicable in delivering therapy to areas where accuracy has limited manual capsule technology applications, such as the esophagus, stomach, and colon.

Capsule technology has already generated a $100 million market in the U.S. for consumable capsules alone, and micro robotics are estimated to be in the $500 to $2,000 range, fueling the market even more. However, with promises of more accurate, lower cost diagnoses, which can limit the length of stay and repeated hospitalization, this concept is here to stay.

James Laskaris, EE, BME
James Laskaris, EE, BME, Clinical Analyst — Mr. James Laskaris is a senior emerging technology analyst at MD Buyline and has been with the company since 1994. With over 30 years of experience in the healthcare field, Mr. Laskaris is the primary analyst of high-end OR technology. He also covers issues related to the legislative and reimbursement effect on healthcare and authors a bimonthly “Issues that Matter” publication. Mr. Laskaris received his biomedical engineering degree from Southern Illinois University. His work has been published in hfm Magazine, Radiology Manager and Healthcare Purchasing News.