Scientists have developed a new AI-powered medical implant that can detect when a patient needs drugs to regulate their condition.
The breakthrough has been praised as “revolutionary” for patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, which could see them used to release insulin.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Galway created the implant using ‘soft robotics’ – a technology that resembles living organisms.
The device can administer medicine and can also sense when it is beginning to be rejected by the body. It uses artificial intelligence to change its shape to bypass tissue build-up.
Dr Rachel Beatty from the University of Galway said the technology used in the device means it can be in a patient’s body for extended periods, providing “long-lasting therapeutic action”.
“Imagine a therapeutic implant that can also sense its environment and respond as needed using AI – this approach could generate revolutionary changes in implantable drug delivery for a range of chronic diseases,” she added.
The scientists used a new and experimental technique known as mechanotherapy, where soft robotic implants make regular movements in the body, such as inflating and deflating, to stop scar tissue from forming.
The device is fitted with a membrane that senses when pores are blocked by scar tissue. It detects the blockages as cells and the materials the cells produce block electrical signals travelling through the membrane.
The researchers then measured the electrical flow and looked at how scar tissue formed on the membrane to find a correlation. They then developed an algorithm to predict what changes would be needed to maintain the drug dosage.
Their findings showed that changing the force and number of times the device moved to change shape allowed it to release more drugs and prevent scar tissue build-up.
The technologies used by the team could have wider implications for the delivery of medicine to patients, the team said.
The researchers hope that the discovery “could provide consistent and responsive dosing over long periods, without clinician involvement, enhancing efficacy and reducing the need for device replacement because of fibrosis”.