03 Jan 2018 by Nev Haynes
A century after the novelist published “From Earth to the Moon”, Neil Armstrong set foot on it, making us spectators of what the human will is able to achieve. Fifty years after that feat, in this technological age we live, where digital is heard and felt everywhere, in which, anywhere you look at, the analog and traditional is seen as something belonging to the past. We are witnessing the results that robotics, nanotechnology, chemistry and medicine are able to achieve when they come together to improve our quality of life.
Philip K. Dick, famous author of science fiction novels, already predicted the use of pills to track a subject in the novel Total Recall. The protagonist of screenplay, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, unknowingly carries a pill hidden in his head, by which the bad guys in the film can locate his position on a map.
Miniaturization also reaches science fiction filming in “Innerspace”. Dennis Quaid is shrinked inside some sort of mini-submarine and navigates inside the human body of several characters, sliding through blood vessels and observing with great detail the organs and tissues of his host.
Although this does not stop being nothing more than the product of the fantasy of writers and scriptwriters, nowadays we already have examples of reality surpassing fiction.
In November 2017, the Japanese laboratory OTSUKA Pharmaceutical together with Proteus Digital Health successfully presented Abilify MyCite, the first smart pill, chosen for the administration of its drug Abilify (aripiprazole), used in the treatment of patients suffering from schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder. Once the micro-transmitter incorporating the pill dissolves upon contact with the gastric juices of the patient’s stomach, a wearable device (a smartwatch or a smartphone) will collect the signal and the medication will be registered on a platform which the doctor will have access to. Overdoses, of course, will also be recorded, so the platform will allow family members and doctors to be aware of any incident.
Something as crucial as the control of medication in certain types of diseases will be much easier and effective with the arrival of so-called electroceuticals. The pharmaceutical giant GSK has been leading this revolutionary path towards new forms of treatment for some years, investing in startups that develop electronic devices that are implanted in the nervous system to alleviate ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy or morbid obesity. Do you want to invest in emerging technologies? Do not lose track of these startups.
For some time, micro-camera pills have been used for minimally invasive early diagnosis such as the Pillcam Colon, manufactured by the Israeli company Given Imaging to detect intestinal diseases. The images recorded and stored in a device attached to a belt will then be analyzed by the doctor. The advantage of this method is its comfort, although it does not reach the level of technical precision of a colonoscopy for the detection of tumors.
Something as crucial as the control of medication in certain types of diseases will be much easier and effective with the arrival of so-called electroceuticals
The real smart pills would be those that improve intelligence, memory and mental agility, just like in that film starring Bradley Cooper (“Without Limits”), where the protagonist becomes a true genius based on medication with experimental pills. In 2015, a study was published in European Neuropsychopharmacology that affirms that the drug modafinil, prescribed for patients with neurological or psychiatric problems, enhanced attention, memory or mental agility. As was done with amphetamines, drugs like this, adderall and ritalin can be ingested by mentally healthy people to boost their brain, although the adverse effects include serious disorders such as psychosis. That is some good example of playing with fire.
The latest experiments revolve around biodegradable and non-toxic electronic implants and pills, composed of biopolymers and whose batteries will be fed by chemical substances present in our body, such as melanin. These pills of the future will release the medication gradually and autonomously, depending on the needs of our body.
The latest experiments revolve around biodegradable and non-toxic electronic implants and pills
Everything indicates that we are witnessing the dawn of a new medicine, conceived as a chimerical technological fantasy, almost like a prophetic novel by Jules Verne. The future generations will undoubtedly benefit from what we still find hard to believe today. Smart pills will be taken daily like whoever takes an aspirin today. Although in this case it seems that we will not have to wait another 100 years.