Prevention and Therapy

Laboratory on a chip and targeted dosage of medicines with micropumps

Applications for Medicine and Health

Targeted effect, no side effects - that is the goal in optimal therapy with medicines. The examination and analysis of cells and tissue samples should also be carried out as directly as possible on site, quickly and efficiently. The micropumps of Fraunhofer IPMS offer innovative properties and parameters that are trend-setting for targeted drug administration as well as efficient and decentralised laboratory examinations.

The microfluidic system integrated in the silicon chip can pump liquids through tiny channels that are barely the size of a human hair.  As in the field of hearables and ultrasonic gesture control, the operating principle of the Fraunhofer IPMS micropumps is based on nano-e-drive technology. When an electrostatic voltage is applied, the shape of the bending actuators changes, enabling a pumping action of the smallest amounts of gas and liquid. In this way, the smallest liquid molecules can be transported within a chip.

A "lab on a chip" has all the functionality of a macroscopic laboratory and can be used directly on the patient. This offers novel and revolutionary potentials for point-of-care diagnostics, direct and decentralised laboratory testing and evaluation. While pregnancy tests and blood glucose measurements are established pioneers in this field, specific values from samples can now be selected, analysed and evaluated far more sensitively. In the future, it should be possible, for example, to immediately recognise cardiac insufficiencies or sepsis and react with vital measures. In addition, the microfluidic systems can be used for the optimal dosage of drugs. With a size of just (2.4 x 0.3 x 0.9 mm)³, applications can now be addressed that were previously impossible due to insufficient power density of micropumps as well as a lack of integration concepts.

The tiny pumps can deliver drugs directly into the body, avoiding side effects and interactions that are possible with oral administration. In addition, the therapeutics can be administered without invasive injection or infusion. The dosage can be individually adjusted, so that the micropumps enable personalised medication tailored to the patient. Due to the high biocompatibility of the materials, the novel micropump systems can be implanted in humans without any health effects and can be used, for example, as self-sufficient micro-insulin pumps. In addition, the drainage of body fluids such as lymph accumulations can also be realised via the microfluidic systems. Compared to commercial, mostly piezoelectric, membrane-based micropump systems, the NED micropump systems are characterised by their low power consumption and their improved miniaturisation and integration capabilities.