New pill can deliver insulin through the stomach
An MIT-led research team has developed a drug capsule that could be used to deliver oral doses of insulin, potentially replacing the injections that people with type 2 diabetes have to give themselves every day.
About the size of a blueberry, the capsule contains a small needle made of compressed insulin, which is injected after the capsule reaches the stomach.
In tests in 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. They also demonstrated that the device can 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," says Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, a member of MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and one of the senior authors of the study.
Giovanni Traverso, an assistant professor at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and a visiting scientist in MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering, where he is starting as a faculty member in 2019, is also a senior author of the study.
Several years ago, Traverso, Langer, and their colleagues developed a pill coated with many tiny needles that could be used to inject drugs into the lining of the stomach or the small intestine.
For the new capsule, the researchers changed the design to have just one needle, allowing them to avoid injecting drugs into the interior of the stomach, where they would be broken down by stomach acids before having any effect.
The stomach wall has no pain receptors, so the researchers believe that patients would not be able to feel the injection.
To ensure that the drug is injected into the stomach wall, the researchers designed their system so that no matter how the capsule lands in the stomach, it can orient itself so the needle is in contact with the lining of the stomach.
"As soon as you take it, you want the system to self-right so that you can ensure contact with the tissue," Traverso says.
"What's important is that we have the needle in contact with the tissue when it is injected," Abramson says.
"Also, if a person were to move around or the stomach were to growl, the device would not move from its preferred orientation."