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  Drug-Delivery and Smart Biological Implants

More effective, but lower-dose drug treatments are on the horizon, thanks to ongoing SSIM technology into drug-delivery and smart biological implants. Research teams are developing implants that directly distribute medicine to target cells instead of taking the indirect route offered by other drug-delivery methods, like intravenous injection or oral pills. The implants are actually drug-laden electronic chips that are only activated to release their medicine once at the target site. The implants are not only able to maneuver into hard-to-reach locations, including those occupied by some inoperable tumors, but they can also cross the blood-brain barrier, which often makes impossible the distribution of traditionally delivered medicines to locations in the brain.

In addition, the SSIM researchers are further enhancing the implants to sense their environment and only discharge the medicine if certain conditions exist. For example, a woman at risk for breast cancer might have several strategically placed chemotherapy implants that would work in conjunction with a sensing system, such as early ultrasound detection (see the section on Biological, Chemical and Radiation Sensors), and only activate if the system detects the presence of trace cancerous cells. Scientists and clinicians foresee the use of a small, but highly targeted dose to eliminate the malignant cells very early and extremely efficiently while sparing the patient the side effects associated with the high doses of cancer drugs currently used.

Breast cancer, Parkinson's disease and hydrocephalus are only a few of the medical conditions that will benefit from new MEMS technology in progress by SSIM research teams. With its multidisciplinary approach, novel materials, innovative techniques and specially designed equipment, WSU's Smart Sensors and Integrated Microsystems Program is providing a vision of medical care for the future.