Pill inspired by leopard tortoise could replace diabetic injections

  • Pill inspired by leopard tortoise could replace diabetic injections

Pill inspired by leopard tortoise could replace diabetic injections

In tests done on animals, the researchers showed that they could deliver enough insulin to lower blood sugar to levels comparable to those produced by injections given through skin. The pill could also be adapted to deliver other protein drugs.

"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.

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.

The study was published February 7 in the journal Science.

The capsule system was developed by a team of researchers from MIT, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and insulin manufacturer Novo Nordisk.

The new pill's single tip is made of nearly 100 percent compressed, freeze-dried insulin. The shaft of the needle, which does not enter the stomach wall, is made from another biodegradable material.

Within the capsule, the needle is attached to a compressed spring that is held down by a disc of sugar. 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 user of the capsule won't feel any pain from the needle as the stomach has no pain receptors. In the case of the capsule, the domed shape ensures that the needle is continually reoriented towards the stomach wall.

The researchers drew their inspiration for the self-orientation feature from a tortoise known as the leopard tortoise. The leopard tortoise has an unusual shaped shell that looks like a high dome, if the tortoise rolls over, the shape of its shells ensures it can always easily self-right.

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

"If they are pushed over but are able to orient themselves", first author Alex Abramsom, an MIT graduate student, told DailyMail.com. Now, researchers report they've come up with a possible solution, a pill that injects its medicine in the stomach lining.

The new invention, reported Thursday by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-led research team, has been tested only in animals so far.

After the capsule has delivered its contents, the remains pass harmlessly through the digestive system.

Now, researchers at MIT have developed just that - so far, it's only been trialed in animals, but it's certainly an exciting start.

If poking into the stomach wall sounds worrisome, Traverso said gastroenterologists have long used bigger needles to deliver medicines during certain gastric procedures and their patients fare well. It may also work for nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA.

Injections can be painful, cause injuries and be a barrier to people taking medication, he added.

Patients usually prefer oral treatment, and comply with it better, but many compounds, including insulin for diabetes, can't survive the harsh trip through the digestive system.