Magnet-driven capsules boost delivery precision

Microcapsule manipulation by magnet is the subject of separate research efforts in the U.S. and Germany.

At Brown University, scientists have outfitted a magnet with computer controls and a feedback mechanism. The unit is the external component of a system; it works in tandem with a magnet-carrying gelatin capsule. Via computer control, the team has held the pill in a specific place, where it can deliver a drug or capture an image.

A key characteristic to be controlled  by users is force. They must apply the minimum needed to hold the capsule in place. Too much force will pull the capsule against delicate cell walls, affecting their ability to absorb medicine.  

The Brown University work has been done on rats. University of Hamburg researchers, by contrast, are working with human volunteers. Each of 10 subjects swallowed a capsule that the researchers maneuvered into place using an external magnet. The capsule contains a scope that can capture thousands of images during a procedure and transmit them to a recorder. The capsule scope technique is being developed as an alternative to flexible endoscopes, which are problematic for many patients.

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