July 22, 2024

AI-Enabled Soft Robotic Implant Uses Artificial Intelligence to Personalize Drug Treatment

Researchers at the University of Galway and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have made a significant breakthrough in medical device technology. They have developed a smart implantable device that utilizes soft robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide personalized, long-lasting treatment for patients. The device can administer drugs, detect rejection, adapt its shape to maintain drug dosage, and prevent scar tissue build-up.

Implantable medical devices have the potential to revolutionize healthcare by enabling advanced therapeutic interventions. However, a major challenge is the body’s immune response to foreign objects. The team of researchers aimed to address this issue by using soft robotics to create an implantable device that can remain in the body for extended periods and provide continuous therapeutic action.

Dr. Rachel Beatty, co-lead author of the study, explained that the technology they developed could result in “revolutionary changes in implantable drug delivery for a range of chronic diseases.” By combining soft robotics, AI, and drug delivery, the device can respond to its environment and tailor drug administration to individual patients.

The researchers initially developed flexible devices called soft robotic implants to improve drug delivery and reduce fibrosis. However, these first-generation devices were one-size-fits-all and did not account for individual patient responses or the progressive nature of fibrosis, which ultimately leads to device failure.

To overcome these limitations, the research team used AI to make the device responsive to the implant environment. They deployed an emerging technique called mechanotherapy, where the soft robotic implants make regular movements in the body to prevent scar tissue formation. The device features a conductive porous membrane that can sense when pores are blocked by scar tissue. It detects blockages by monitoring electrical signals traveling through the membrane.

The researchers developed a machine learning algorithm to predict the required number and force of movements to achieve consistent drug dosing, regardless of the level of fibrosis present. By changing the force and frequency of movements, the device can release more medication and bypass scar tissue build-up.

The breakthrough has the potential to enable personalized, precision drug delivery by sensing the patient’s immune response to the implant and adjusting the dosing regime accordingly. This closed-loop system reduces off-target effects and ensures the right amount of drug is delivered at the right time.

The research team believes that their medical device breakthrough could lead to completely independent closed-loop implants that not only reduce fibrotic encapsulation but also sense it over time and adjust their drug release activity intelligently.

The study was funded by Science Foundation Ireland’s Research Centres for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) center, Medical Devices (CÚRAM), the European Union’s Horizon 2020 framework, and the Mechanical Engineering Department at MIT.

This groundbreaking research paves the way for a new era of personalized drug delivery and long-lasting implantable medical devices. By combining soft robotics and AI, these devices can adapt to each patient’s unique needs and provide targeted treatment while bypassing scar tissue formation. The potential applications of this technology extend beyond diabetes treatment, with the possibility of enhancing efficacy and reducing the need for device replacement in various chronic diseases.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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