Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

MIT's smart pillbox targets TB

04.03.2008
Tuberculosis has long been eradicated from the world's industrialized nations but continues to take a terrible toll in a few poor, rural regions of Asia and Africa. Every year, 10 million new cases are diagnosed and two million people die of the disease.

It's not that new treatments are needed--medical science long ago figured out how to cure tuberculosis using a cocktail of antibiotics.

The problem is getting the medicine to the people who need it and, most difficult, making sure they follow the six-month regimen of daily doses.

Failure to follow the regimen not only leads to likely death of that patient, but fosters the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of the disease. "The problem is, how do you get people to take this complex regimen," says Manish Bhardwaj, a doctoral student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science who works in the Microsystems Technology Laboratories.

After a year of hard work and about eight revisions, Bhardwaj and a team of collaborators think they may have found the answer. It's a high-tech solution in a simple, inexpensive and easy-to-use -package.

The first part of the two-component system is a kind of "smart"
pillbox, called the uBox. It has 14 chambers that can each be loaded with several pills, which it dispenses from one chamber per day. To alert the patient that it's time to take the medicine, the box flashes its lights and sounds a buzzer. When the compartment is opened, the uBox records the exact time and prevents double-dosing by refusing to open again until the next treatment is due.

After two weeks, a health care worker reloads the box and digitally records and transmits the information stored in it. Doctors and public health services can then get complete data on compliance, patient by patient, in almost real time, instead of having to wait until the end of the six-month treatment.

"How do you know if pills are getting to the patients or if patients are taking them? Today, there's no good way of doing this," Bhardwaj says. If people fail to take all their pills, "it is possible to do harm by treatment that doesn't have good adherence." Missing medication can lead to the development of resistant strains, which can then be spread by that noncompliant patient. "The people they infect have no chance." Today, less than half of the patients that start the regimen successfully complete it.

"We want to make sure the worker is motivated," Bhardwaj says, and at present there's no way to tell which workers are diligent about making the calls and which ones may skip some of their appointed -visits. Accordingly, the uBox has an additional feature: a receptacle for a tiny key, like a headphone plug, which is carried by the visiting health care worker. At each visit the worker inserts the key, thus recording the fact that the patient really has been visited--another important gauge of compliance.

The second part of the group's new system is a cell phone, called the uPhone. By using special software, health care workers can record a patient's temperature, weight, and answers to a list of questions related to symptoms, which adds to the set of detailed patient data analyzed by doctors monitoring the study.

By looking at patterns of effects, the doctors can tell which field workers are achieving the best adherence rates with their patients and find out just what it is that those people are doing right. They can then be recruited to train additional workers.

Bhardwaj has been working with MIT alumni Goutam Reddy and Sara Cinnamon on the engineering and electronics of the pillbox, doctoral student Bill Thies and alumnus Pallavi Kaushik on the uPhone software, and MIT seniors Oliver Venn and Jessica Leon on fundraising and logistics.

Bhardwaj and Thiess went to Bihar province this January to begin their first field test of the product, conducting a training session for 22 workers who will, in turn, train the field workers to distribute the pillboxes in the field. In late April Bhardwaj will return to Bihar to train workers at two new sites. The first actual field test with 100 of the boxes and 10 cell phones should start in mid-May.

If all goes well, a second round of testing, using 1,000 uBoxes, is set to begin. After that, it all depends on the results--and on the ability to raise funds for future deployment. Health officials in India are already keenly interested in this test, and Bhardwaj is about to meet with representatives of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to discuss possible collaboration and support.

The Ven. Tenzin Priyadarshi, MIT's Buddhist chaplain, helped to get the project started and says, "I am hopeful that the uBox-uPhone project will revolutionize the way we understand and provide health care in rural areas of the world."

While Bhardwaj is proud of the product his team developed, he is not proprietary about it. "We hope to make the uBox and the uPhone the standard of treatment in Bihar. We worked very hard to make something very simple and elegant," he says. "But we'd be delighted if someone beats us to it and builds a uBox cheaper. We hope other people will copy us."

Written by David Chandler, MIT News Office

Elizabeth A. Thomson | MIT News Office
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Researchers identify new way to unmask melanoma cells to the immune system
17.01.2018 | Duke University Medical Center

nachricht Study advances gene therapy for glaucoma
17.01.2018 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

World’s oldest known oxygen oasis discovered

18.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Uncovering decades of questionable investments

18.01.2018 | Business and Finance

Novel chip-based gene expression tool analyzes RNA quickly and accurately

18.01.2018 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>