Pills hold a special place in the sci-fi fan's heart. In fact, it's a cliché that even a casual sci-fi fan would recognize: swallow a pill and have all of your worries and what ails you cured in an instant. In most sci-fi tales, though, there is an sinister underlying reason why the pill is such a huge successmind control, for example.
So now Philips has developed a neat little pill with a microprocessor, battery, pH sensor, temperature sensor, RF wireless transceiver, fluid pump andoh yeah, don't forgetthe actual drug. I am subtly reassured by their site's description of the pill that this device will not control your mind or attempt any other sort of subterfuge.
This cute little guy is 11x 26mm and is called the iPill.
From the Philips site:
Digestive tract disorders such as Crohn's disease, colitis and colon cancer are becoming increasingly common, particularly in the western world. Crohn's disease and colitis can be treated with drugs, notably steroids, but many of these drugs have adverse and unpleasant side effects for patients when administered systemically as whole-body doses. However, by delivering the required drugs directly to the site of disease, dose levels may be lowered and many of these side effects could be reduced.
So the theory is targeted delivery of the drug is the most effective approach. This type of treatment, if perfected, would be wildly effective in treating small, hard to reach tumors, for example. This pill is limited to traveling within the intestinal tract, although it's not hard to imagine a similar device 100 times smaller that would navigate through blood vessels.
Once this kind of "pill" gets small enough, concerns begin to arise: one is the microfluidic behavior at these small scales. A doctor may be able to traverse the small intestine with a pea-sized pill, but what about driving a micro-car through blood-filled arteries? Also, our bodies' health might one day be controlled by a multitude of iPills. In that case, who would be best to navigate these tricky transports? A possible solution: hire video-game playing teenagers who've mastered the "microfluidic game play."