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    Could Shots Become a Thing of the Past?

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    Conventional inhalers deliver varied amounts of medication to the large airways of the lungs. The new device, though, can deliver precise doses of tiny liquid particles into the small airways -- a much more efficient method.

    According to Igor Gonda, PhD, a researcher at Aradigm Corp. in Hayward, Calif., the device monitors how a patient is inhaling, and when the breaths are slow and controlled, it emits a green light to signal that the drug is about to be administered. A piston pushes the drug from its blister pack into the airstream, where it is inhaled. The patient holds his breath for a few seconds to allow the drug to concentrate in the lungs.

    Gorda says that the device could be used in treating diabetes, cystic fibrosis, or chronic pain, and may even play a role in delivering gene therapy. He adds that use in asthma and other lung disorders is also possible.

    Another researcher here suggests that implantation of a dime-sized microchip may make needles a thing of the past. The chip, when placed under the skin, would contain hundreds of mini-reservoirs capable of dispensing medications on demand, says John Santini Jr., PhD, president of MicroCHIPS Inc. of Waltham, Mass.

    Santini and colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have tested the chips in the laboratory and are planning to test them in animals soon. He said the devices could deliver drugs used to control chronic pain, in cancer therapy, in hormone therapy, and for other conditions.

    "This is very intriguing work," says Saltzman, "but it is very preliminary."

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