Pill inspired by leopard tortoise could replace diabetic injections
09 February, 2019, 22:14
It contains a tiny needle made of freeze-dried compressed insulin, which is released and injected into the stomach's lining.
In tests on animals, an MIT-led research group showed they could deliver enough insulin to lower blood sugar to levels comparable to those produced by doses administered through skin. The same capsule can also be adapted to deliver other protein drugs. The shaft of the needle, which does not enter the stomach wall, is made from another biodegradable material. It involves some clever engineering to ensure it's released at exactly the right time: a tiny, spring-loaded needle is released once the sugar glass that surrounds it is dissolved by acid in the stomach.
An ingestible injection could bypass the hazards of that journey - letting insulin absorb through the wall of the stomach, said Dr. Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist at Boston's Brigham & Women's Hospital and a senior author of the study. Therefore, it does not matter how the pill falls, it will always be able to orient itself to be in contact with the stomach walls. And for almost as long, researchers have pursued a way to orally administer insulin.
Scientists figured out how to hide a shot inside a pea-sized pill - creating a swallowable gadget, inspired by a tortoise shell, that can inject medicines like insulin from inside the stomach. When your body isn't making insulin correctly, you can take man-made insulin to help control your body blood sugar. "Our motivation is to make it easier for patients to take medication, particularly medications that require an injection", explained Traverso. So, they turned to an unlikely animal for inspiration: the leopard tortoise. The tortoise with a high, steep shell dome can right itself when rolling onto its back. Researchers also hope the new technology can be used to deliver many other types of medications and hormones that have been only deliverable intravenously. The pill is a variant of its shape made using computer modelling since it allows the capsule to reorient itself in the stomach.
"Also, if a person were to move around or the stomach were to growl, the device would not move from its preferred orientation", Alex Abramson, MIT graduate student and study first author, added.
The research in pigs has successfully delivered up to 5 milligrams of insulin, comparable to the amount a type 2 diabetic patients would need to inject.
Once the contents from the capsule are released, it passes through the digestive system without any side effects. The MIT team is now collaborating with Novo Nordisk for further study and product development to make it available in pharmacies at the soonest time.
Other authors of the paper include Ester Caffarel-Salvador, Minsoo Khang, David Dellal, David Silverstein, Yuan Gao, Morten Revsgaard Frederiksen, Andreas Vegge, Frantisek Hubalek, Jorrit Water, Anders Friderichsen, Johannes Fels, Rikke Kaae Kirk, Cody Cleveland, Joy Collins, Siddartha Tamang, Alison Hayward, Tomas Landh, Stephen Buckley, Niclas Roxhed, and Ulrik Rahbek.
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