Researchers at Eindhoven University used a DNA computer to create a pill that looks at how sick you are and doles out the proper amount of medicine. An illustration of what the “smart” pill would look like. (via Eindhoven University)
When you’re not feeling well, you often turn to medicine whether it’d be over the counter drugs or prescribed by a doctor. However, you don’t always need meds to feel better and when you do take them, how do you know when enough’s enough? Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) have made a breakthrough in medicine. They’ve developed a “smart” pill that can access your health state and dole out the proper amount of chemicals.
Medicine is what we turn to first for our different ailments, but it’s not always recommended. It’s not easy to determine when you should or shouldn’t rely on medication for relief. Though meds come with directions about when and how to take it, it’s easy to ignore instructions, especially when the only thing on your mind is feeling better. This could lead to unwanted side effects and ultimately, waste the medication you spent a lot of money on. The idea behind this new “smart” pill is having it release specific amounts based on your needs.
The team, led by Maarten Merkx, developed this new method by using a DNA computer to help them gather data. This computer looks for molecules that it can react with to gather the proper data. This allows researchers to program the correct reaction circuits. The systems also find specific antibodies to help determine how ill someone is. Measuring the concentration of certain antibodies helps determine whether or not someone has a specific disease.
Once the antibodies are identified, they are translated into a unique piece of DNA which the DNA computer can then decide whether medicine is necessary, depending on the presence of one or more antibodies. It can also help determine how much medicine is needed if you need to be treated. Not only is this a breakthrough for medicine, it sets a new record. The team are the first to successfully link the presence of antibodies to a DNA computer.
Ideally, the DNA computer would gather this information from a pill you take just like any other. From there, it will determine how much chemicals, if any, needs to be released. Though the “smart” pill is still in its early phase, it shows great potential for intelligent medicine. Imagine being able to have the right amount of chemicals in your system. It reduces the risk of overdosing and makes sure you’re not taking drugs when you don’t need them. With further researching and testing, the team hopes this new method will be able to lessen side-effects that usually comes with medication and reduce the cost in the future. In our society where we have the tendency to be overmedicated, this “smart” pill can help us be healthier and safer.
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