Imagine if patients could swallow pill-sized sensors that provide real-time information to doctors and other health professionals, or if a nanodevice could track the growth of a tumour.
You might think this is the plotline from ’80s sci-fi comedy Innerspace, where miniaturisation technology places a hapless Dennis Quaid into an unsuspecting human host. But medical implants are not some futuristic plot – they are already a reality, capable of monitoring patient health on a very personal level.
Welcome to the world of ‘insideable’ devices, where bio-sensitive nanotechnology that resides in a patient’s body can provide a range of critical data.
What is 'insideable' technology?
An insideable is a microscopic device that goes into a patient's body to perform a diagnostic task or monitor one or more bodily functions. A device can be swallowed, injected or inserted just under the skin.
Thanks to advances in nanotechnology, insideable devices are the next big thing in healthcare.
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) implants, while not commonplace, allow us to unlock a front door, computer or smartphone – all with a wave of a chip-enabled finger. Insideable medical devices take this concept a step further by making it possible to monitor a patient's vital signs, track their gastrointestinal health or even detect the early signs of disease.
But what practical benefits will this cutting-edge technology have for the health sector?
The nanomedicine revolution
Insideable technology promises to make the dream of preventive medicine a reality, and soon. It will mean healthcare professionals can:
- Accurately monitor patient health.
- Predict risk with a greater degree of certainty.
- Rapidly confirm a diagnosis.
- Track whether patients are taking their prescription medications.
- Collaborate with their patients more effectively.
And if you are looking for a dominant trend in the sector, it has to be predictive diagnostics, which is largely driven by insideable nanotechnology.
Insideables to inspire predictive diagnostics
Proteus Digital Health, which bills itself as “the world’s first digital medicine service”, has already had its ingestible sensor digital pill cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration. Elsewhere, tech giant Google is working on a smart pill that could identify diseases before symptoms become present – a pre-emptive approach that will allow care to be personalised to the individual.
There is also current research looking at how magnetoelectric nanoparticles could enable targeted delivery of drugs to specific organs or cells where disease is present. Insideables could even improve the delivery of vaccines, which could mean no more needles – a development many patients will applaud.
Insideables open up a world of possibilities to make healthcare smarter, faster and more effective. For the first time in history, we will be able to remotely track and monitor patient health in real-time, and revolutionise the way we detect and treat disease.