"This work could lead to a new generation of electronic ingestible pills that could someday enable novel ways of monitoring patient health and/or treating disease," said Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT.
Once the researchers miniaturize the device, they anticipate adding other types of sensors and developing it for applications such as long-term monitoring of vital signs. Such devices could also be used for drug delivery. In this study, the researchers demonstrated that they could use the power generated by the voltaic cell to release drugs encapsulated by a gold film. This could be useful for situations in which doctors need to try out different dosages of a drug, such as medication for controlling blood pressure.
The research was funded by Texas Instruments, the Semiconductor Research Corporation's Center of Excellence for Energy Efficient Electronics, the Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Commission, the National Institutes of Health, and the Max Planck Research Award.