After years of research, a wirelessly-controlled "pharmacy in a chip" has had its first clinical trial. In an experiment run by scientists from MIT and biomedical company MicroCHIPS, the chips were implanted in eight women with osteoporosis for a period of four months, with each device holding up to 20 daily doses at a time of the calcium-boosting hormone needed for treatment. Doses are held in reservoirs by a thin coating of platinum and titanium, which is melted by an electrical charge to release the drug, either on a schedule or based on a short-range wireless transmission. Besides testing for adverse reactions to the implant, the study checked to make sure that the doses were having the same effect on bone growth as ordinary injections. Scientists found no problems with either the effectiveness of the drug or use of the chip, meaning that if a version can be created that holds a larger number of doses, more trials can be held to determine whether it's suitable for widespread use.

If successful, the chip could be used to replace daily injections of drugs for chronic diseases or pain management, making it easier for patients to comply with a regimen. The study also showed that doses given by the chip were more regular than those that were injected, because each one didn't have to be measured and delivered by the patient. And in theory, multiple drugs could be dispensed with a single chip, as long as there was enough room for the doses and the programming was capable of releasing the drugs at the right time. The abstract for the article, published in Science Translational Medicine, is available below; for some early work on the project, you can check out this piece from Angewandte Chemie (PDF).