How Are Body Sensors Being Used in the Pharma Space?
Body sensors have been around for a long time, but the uses for them are constantly evolving, as is the technology behind them. We used to consider it a boon to track your heart rate and steps per day, but now body sensors can do so much more. This is big news for the Pharma industry, since many of the new advancements focus on health-related functions.
There are body sensors that can be hooked up to machines to determine what is going on in the body, but the most useful ones are the wireless options that you can use anywhere.
Wireless Body Tech is the New Future
Pacemakers, neural recording equipment, and heart rate monitors will never completely disappear, though they may change a lot in the coming years. However, there are plenty of newer methods of managing the body’s output, and wireless body sensors are one of the more promising areas of tech to come into the health field.
Sensors that can be worn on the skin or in clothing that is in close contact with the skin is something that helps doctors and patients monitor their vital signs. We’ve used similar tech for years to track astronaut health, but it’s now possible to use Bluetooth or WiFi to wirelessly transmit information from anyone. Everything from temperature and blood oxygenation to neurological activity and sweat composition can be tracked from a distance.
For companies that are testing new drugs, the possibility of tracking this information can mean more useful monitoring, even when test subjects are out in the real world.
In Vivo Technology
Biosensors have already been in use for years to keep track of blood sugar levels in diabetics. Continuous glucose monitoring involves electrochemical sensors under the skin and are good for around two weeks. They keep track of the glucose levels on a constant basis, sending a notice to a device or smartphone if levels spike or drop too much. Newer sensors are already in development to create more durable options that will not need to be replaced every fortnight.
Biotech On Its Way
Many biosensor technologies are not yet ready for the market, but they’re showing bright promise. For example:
Ionophore sensors: Developed by Kevin Cash at the Colorado School of Mines, these sensors are essentially optical sensors. They snap a photograph of the skin’s surface to capture the light from the skin and this translates into information that can be processed by the scientist. Each ionophore sensor is tinier than a human hair and can detect tiny changes in drug metabolization.
These sensors are set inside the skin, looking much like a tattoo. From there, they change color depending on what is detected in the blood. The sensors pick up things like potassium, sodium, lithium, and calcium, among other things.
Carbon nanotube sensors: These sensors are single-walled carbon nanotubes, which were originally found in 1993. The nanotubes fluoresce is near-infrared and are being studied by multiple scientists at the moment for use in detection of specific molecules. The tiny devices are encapsulated and then inserted into the skin and can last nearly a year. The nanotubes may be used to detect a range of things, including nitric oxide to show inflammation in the body, insulin, dopamine, riboflavin, L-thyroxine, and multiple other molecules.
Once the kinks have been ironed out, it’s expected that nanotubes could become a way to check on superficial health factors. Though the sensors are useful for blood and skin, they can’t do much for sensing inner organs.
Opto-acoustic sensors: Similar to ultrasound, opto-acoustics pick up information from deeper inside the body. This eliminates many of the problems with skin-only type sensors and may become the latest way to gather information on the human body. For example, if part of the body is not getting enough oxygen, this type of body sensor can easily check for oxygenation and reveal the hypoxic areas.
Jesse Jokerst from the University of California San Diego is developing a smart catheter using opto-acoustic sensors. This is designed to ensure that heparin, an anticoagulant, is administered in exact doses by inserting the catheter and continuously testing the heparin levels. The end plan to use catheters like this to automatically dose patients and ensure their medication levels stay as level as they need to be, without constant blood draws.
One recent leap in technology that is designed to work within the Pharma industry is the Abilify MyCite sensor. A common issue for many, including those dealing with schizophrenia, is forgetting whether or not they took their medication. Over the years, there have been multiple ways to track this, including custom packaging with the days of the week. Abilify MyCite takes this to a whole new level.
Each aripiprazole tablet includes a sensor inside it. You simply download an app and it will track the sensor so you can be sure you’ve taken the right meds at the right time. While this technology is still in its infancy, the possibilities are impressive. Imagine the ability to track elderly patients’ use of medications? Or the ability to check if someone has misused and by exactly how much? Simply being able to track patient compliance has many possibilities that could enhance patient health drastically in the long run.
There are some major changes coming to the Pharma industry, thanks to the many advances in biotech. Body sensors will certainly change the way we diagnose conditions and prescribe medicine. From monitoring when someone takes a pill to continuously checking the drug levels in their blood, there are plenty of ways to use sensors. They could be the next step in helping prevent accidental overdoses and ensuring that everyone has the exact amount of medication they need, regardless of size or metabolism.
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