A magnet car for your GI tract could deliver meds

You remember that children's toy with which you can move a car around a plastic-encased maze by holding a magnet underneath? Move the magnet, the toy car above it moves. Well, over at Brown University, they've been playing with magnets embedded inside pills and controlling it from the outside. Except, the "maze" is the gastrointestinal tract and they don't want the pill to move. They want it to hold perfectly still so drugs can be released at precisely the correct spot.

The problem with many oral medications is that a pill often will not dissolve at exactly the right site in intestines where the medicine can be absorbed into the bloodstream. But MIT Technology Review reports that Brown University researcher Edith Mathiowitz built a magnetic tracking system to observe pills as they pass through the body. She and her team then realized that they could actually control the pills, too.

They tried the magnetic pill system on rats and reported the results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Eventually, the technology could provide a new way to deliver many drugs to patients or find use as a research tool to help scientists understand where in the intestine different drugs are best absorbed.

"With this technology you can now tell where the pill is placed, take some blood samples and know exactly if the pill being in this region really enhances the bioavailability of the medicine in the body," Mathiowitz says in a statement. "It's a completely new way to design a drug delivery system."

- read the Technology Review report
- or check out the Brown University press release