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Proteins such as erythropoietin and interferon are great at fighting disease, but it’s difficult to deliver them with conventional needles or implanted pumps. Medgenics, in Misgav, Israel, has come up with an alternative: a “biopump,” made from a patient’s own skin, that can painlessly produce and deliver just the right amount of a protein drug. Medgenics takes a matchstick-sized strip of the patient’s skin and cuts it into pieces called micro-organs, about 400 micrometers across. It then genetically engineers the micro-organs to produce the protein and monitors its daily production. After a week, the company implants just enough of the micro-organs in the patient to deliver the right dose. The biopump produces proteins at the measured rate for several months but can be removed at any point. Medgenics says it has proven the technology’s feasibility through animal testing and has scheduled human trials for mid-2003. The company is also working on an automated device that will enable doctors to create patients’ biopumps themselves. Medgenics plans to market the device within five years.

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