If you have interstitial cystitis or IC you are not alone. This bladder disease affects at least a half million people in the United States, mostly women, with perhaps an equal number undiagnosed. Currently treatment for IC is an infusion of lidocaine into the bladder through a catheter which only provides brief relief and needs to be repeated frequently.
Researchers at MIT have developed a device which they think is a better solution for the drug delivery system. Using a laser beam, they drill a tiny hole in a small medical-grade silicone tube with the solid drug. A shape memory wire made of nitinol is threaded through the tube, which is then straightened out, placed in a catheter and inserted into the bladder. As soon as it is released in the bladder, the nitinol wire causes the device to spring back into a pretzel-like shape which prevents it from being expelled from the bladder during urination and thus it can slowly, steadily release the drug over a two week period which is typically long enough to treat an IC flare-up, which can occur three times a year.
Although the device is in its phase-1 clinical trials and initially being tested specifically for IC, the same delivery system could also be used to deliver drugs for other bladder diseases, including chemotherapy for bladder cancer, which has the highest recurrence rate of all, in part because it is so difficult to deliver drugs to the bladder in a sustained way.
The major problem with these treatments is the patients don’t get the drug long enough that’s why doctors try to make up for this shortcoming by using very high concentrations of drugs. The new device could potentially lead to smaller dosages, thus reducing side effects and adverse reactions. Also, compared to the discomfort of having a catheter left in place for an hour under the present standard treatment regime, this device inserted quickly and patients could not even tell that the device had been left in place.
If all goes well the device could become an approved medical product by 2014.