Research: New pill can deliver insulin through the stomach

Pill inspired by leopard tortoise could replace diabetic injections

The sugar disc allows the humidity in the stomach to serve as the trigger of the micro-injection, and the solid insulin needle enables delivery of a sufficient dose of the drug. Then, they measured the amount of insulin and PEO combination that made it into the blood and measured the blood glucose level in five different animals.

They also demonstrated that the device can be adapted to "deliver other protein drugs". In 2014, Langer and his colleagues developed a pill with tiny needles that will inject the drug into the stomach lining.

The researchers also had to make sure the capsule had a chance to right itself before the injection occurred. Robert S. Langer, senior study author commented on the impact of the findings in a recent press release: "We are really hopeful that this new type of capsule could someday help diabetic patients and perhaps anyone who requires therapies that can now only be given by injection or infusion", The microneedle within the capsule is composed of compressed, freeze-dried insulin and a biodegradable material, and is created to always land in the stomach in the same orientation. The shaft of the needle does not enter the stomach and is biodegradable.

Throughout the capsule, the needle is hooked up to a compressed spring that's held in place by a disk fabricated from sugar. Once it's swallowed, the sugar disk dissolves and releases the spring injecting the needle into the stomach wall.

"We are really hopeful that this new type of capsule could someday help diabetic patients and perhaps anyone who requires therapies that can now only be given by injection or infusion", senior author Dr Robert Langer, a member of MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research said in a press release. The cleverest part of the design is the shape of the pill that ensures, no matter which way it lands the needle is always pointing towards the stomach wall.

The researchers are able to control the rate that insulin dissolves when they prepare the capsule.

The findings, published in the journal Science, showed that the researchers could successfully deliver up to 300 micrograms of insulin.

"Our motivation is to make it easier for patients to take medication, particularly medications that require an injection", said senior author Giovanni Traverso. "The classic one is insulin, but there are many others".

In designing the small capsule, called a S.O.M.A., or self-orienting millimeter-scale actuator, scientists drew on the curious shape of the leopard turtle shell; that shape allows the turtle to easily right itself should it somehow topple over onto its back.

"What's important is that we have the needle in contact with the tissue when it is injected", Abramson", said.

The researchers describe the capsule as "about the size of a pea" and made from biodegradable polymer and bits of stainless steel.

After the capsule has delivered its contents, the remains pass harmlessly through the digestive system. In this study, it took about an hour for all of the insulin to be fully released into the bloodstream. 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.

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