GOTHENBURG— If you forgot to take your medicine this morning, Don’t worry. Scientists have developed a new material which may enable individuals to take pills that release medication through a remote control!

Chalmers University of Technology researchers believe their invention may lead to drug implants and electronic capsules that use a signal to determine when more medication is needed.  A new substance known as the polymer surface changes its state by using an electric pulse.  The function of the material then shifts from capturing to releasing biomolecules. 

The new polymer will make it easier for patients to receive biomedicines. Biomedicines are produced by living cells and are used by doctors to treat everything from autoimmune diseases to cancer. The fact that these medications are extremely expensive to produce is one disadvantage of this method. Developing a material capable of effectively separating medicine from the other biomolecules could help scientists speed up the process and produce more drugs.

“Polymer surfaces developed by us present a unique way of protein separation with the use of electrical signals that control how it is released from and bound to a surface without affecting the protein’s structure,” says lead Gustav Ferrand-Drake in a university press release.

How are scientists developing biomedicines today?

According to the study’s authors, the traditional method employs chromatography, which binds biomolecules firmly to the surface of a cell. The amount of biomedicine produced by this process is reduced because strong chemicals are required to release these meds. This is because most meds are extremely sensitive to strong chemicals.

According to the team, developing a polymer that uses fewer chemicals and can be used again will be beneficial for the environment. This polymer, according to scientists, could be used repeatedly to separate biomedicine from the living cell.

So, how does this relate to an electronic pill? According to the researchers, the same material can operate in biological solution and survive changes in the body’s pH values. As a result, it can be used to develop a new type of pill that releases medication only when an electronic signal is received. This means the electrical pulse will cause the capsule to change its form and release medication, resulting in a pill that could be controlled remotely!

“Imagine a doctor determining a patient’s need for a different dose of medicine and a remote-control signal that activates the release of the medicine from the implant positioned in the exact tissue or organ where it’s needed,”  Del Castillo says.

Are electronic pills already in existence?

The concept of a time-delayed medication is not new, even though it may not have used an electronic signal. There are current materials that change state in response to chemical environment changes. Like there are tablets that release medication when a person’s pH balance shifts, which is common in the gastrointestinal tract. However, the majority of the body’s other tissues do not undergo chemical changes.

“We believe that controlling protein release and uptake with very little surgical intervention and without the use of needle injections is a unique and valuable property.” Electronic implant development is just one of many possible applications that could occur many years in the future. “Research linking electronics and biology at the molecular level is significant information in this direction,” says the study’s author.

Another benefit of this new innovation is that it does not require a strong signal to function. Because the polymer is so thin, users can activate it with small electrochemical signals.

“In biological environments, moving mechanical parts and the battery size are frequently limitations of electronics.  Molecular activation reduces the need for both energy and moving parts,” says Ferrand del Castillo.

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