So tiny and yet so impactful - healthcare in a capsule
This idea of gathering data about the human body or inserting tiny robots to perform small surgeries is neither a new one nor one which settles fear or triggers a surprise. New technologies in the form of digital pills are expected to solve the biggest secret left undiscovered - the human body. Simultaneously, lack of control of the data produced questions the ethics and privacy issues. This article explores the innovations and possibilities brought by healthcare advancement and business opportunities which have to be taken into consideration already today.
I know you
from inside out
The MIT Labs, an interdisciplinary research laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will always bring the world-changing innovations. This time, the researchers are advancing the potential of healthcare with micro-origami robots. The origami robot is ingestible and comes in the ice shell, which melts in the stomach. Once the capsule is dissolved, the robot unfolds itself and gets to work. Controlled via external magnet field, the robot moves towards its mission. The purpose of the origami gadget can vary from delivering the medication to the exact place of need, or to extracting a button battery from stomach walls.
What is more, this origami robot, unlike its ancestry, is "organic". Nevertheless, not the favorite medicine for vegetarians and vegans. The device is made largely of meat in the form of a pig intestine similar to one used in sausage casings. Ice has been chosen to be an experimental capsule for the robot.
The video demonstrates the process of removing the button battery from the stomach. In the model, researchers used a mock-up of a pig's stomach and silicone rubber with the mix of water and lemon juice stimulating stomach acid. After being swallowed, the ice capsule travels down through the esophagus to the stomach. Next, the shell melts and the device unfolds itself, crawls to the battery, and removes it from the stomach wall.
The future development is to tackle the external magnetic fields, substituting it with sensors. This way, the device will be able to control itself. Following this perspective, the possibility of tiny organic origami robot will be endless as Raspberry Pi.
patient is following
The healthcare system overall has many problems as it is not a normal good that one can purchase just for fun. The healthcare market cannot be a free one with free competition. The demand for the quality services and medicine in many cases is inelastic and, therefore, involves the monitoring and reporting to satisfy the quality/price relation. However, the problem is not only hospitals, insurances, of public/private provision. One of the main obstacles is the Principal-Agent problem between the patient and the doctor. Let's skip the discussion of the possible issue related to prescribing the right medicine and move to the side of patient's responsibility of taking the prescribed medicine.
How to measure the efficiency of the treatment if a patient forgets or refuses to take his medicine? And when talking about mentally unstable patients, how to be sure that they actually swallowed the pill? The ingestible sensors from Protheus is a digital revolution in the healthcare services. The smart pill provides patient and physician with the insight of the patient's medication-taking and healthy daily habits.
The Protheus drug-device is a pill with the sand-size grain sensor. The pills are made from copper, magnesium, and silicone, which dissolves in the body in 5 minutes. Before the device wastes away, it sends the data to the patch, which patient locates near the navel, and transmits the data to the smartphone.
Ideally, the control over the patient by the person himself and his physician nudges both actors towards more responsible behavior. The smart pill will provide insight on whether the medicine performed poorly because of it did not suit the patient or because the patient has skipped out on the medicine, or hasn't taken it at all. This way, the spendings on the healthcare can be shrunk significantly.
However, the ethical question of privacy is being raised. Does this kind of solution undermine the patients' privacy? Doesn't it give to much control to doctors? And how to secure the data? All these questions should be answered before the Food and Drug Administration of the US will make the decision whether the product should enter the market.
Digitalised-self and E-Health are moving forward by leaps and bounds. The micro- and nano- technologies enter the healthcare services in an attempt to explore the human body and perform surgeries without actually cutting the body open. Starting with the small operations like removing small objects from stomach and gathering data of the internal environment, the possibilities of the technological breakthrough are endless. All of the innovations are directed to obtain more knowledge and control over the human body. Empowering patients with the body-performance information opens doors fro new markets and services in healthcare, wellness, and daily-consumed products.
#origami robot #smart pill #MIT #healthcare #digital #future trends