(LATIMES) — It can be swallowed, injected, inhaled or delivered to the bloodstream through a time-release implant. Now scientists say they have devised a new way to give patients their medicine: through a fingertip-size microchip embedded in the body that doctors can control remotely via a wireless connection.

The drug chip, more than a dozen years in the making, was used to deliver bone-strengthening hormones to women with advanced osteoporosis who otherwise would have needed daily injections. After four months, the chips were safely removed from the patients’ bodies, scientists reported Thursday at a meeting in Vancouver of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science.

“This is the kind of thing you see in ‘Star Trek,’ ” said Robert Langer, a professor of chemical engineering at MIT and senior author of the study, which was also published online Thursday by the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Like pacemakers, defibrillators and other implantable electronic devices, the chips are controlled by radio waves in a dedicated medical frequency band. But instead of delivering an electric signal to the body, they deliver a chemical signal.

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