New Implantable Medicine Pump Could Tackle Chronic Pain Using 99% Less Drugs

Medical researchers in Sweden have created an implantable device that allows for medication to be automatically dispensed into the body. The groundbreaking device delivers medicine with extreme precision, reducing the amount of drugs needed to just 1% of the dosage doctor’s would normally use.

Nearly 1 in 6 people suffer from neurological disorders and close to 100 million people battle chronic pain on a daily basis.

This implantable device acts as an ion pump: by allowing ions to move into it and medicine to move out, the pump creates an electric charge. Although this device would only work for electrically charged medicines, the majority of pain medications can be electrically charged.

Amanda Jonsson, the team’s bio-electronical engineer and researcher, studied how this implantable device could restore gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in broken spinal areas in rats — areas where GABA was no longer being produced due to damaged nerves. GABA is a chemical that reduces pain by blocking neurotransmitters (nerve signals) to the brain. In order to target these affected areas, the device was secured at the root of a nerve on the spine.

From Left: Professor Magnus Berggren (lead researcher), Assistant Professor Daniel Simon and PhD student Amanda Jonsson. The trio worked together on the implantable medical device (Courtesy of Linkoping University)

From Left: Professor Magnus Berggren (lead researcher), Assistant Professor Daniel Simon and PhD student Amanda Jonsson. The trio worked together on the implantable medical device (Courtesy of Linkoping University)

This particular implantable device was capable of delivering small amounts of GABA to the affected areas with precision and accuracy. Rats that were treated with this approach for three days were able to withstand five times the amount of pain/force administered to them.

While Jonsson says that more research is needed for long term use, she is excited about the device’s potential applications: “With this type of pump, combined with an ability to sense different biomarkers, you could imagine the controlled and precise delivery of something like epileptic drugs,” she says.

With its small and compact size, this implantable device might be the future treatment option for people with chronic pain and neurological disorders.

Read more from Popular Mechanics and Science Advances.

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