Published: Sat, February 09, 2019
Medical | By

Oral insulin capsule developed to replace injections for diabetes patients

Oral insulin capsule developed to replace injections for diabetes patients

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.

The device, detailed in a paper published this week by the journal Science, 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", 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. "Our motivation is to make it easier for patients to take medication, particularly medications that require an injection", " Traverso said.

Lead author Alex Abramson, a Ph.D. student in the department of chemical engineering at MIT, said, "The system had to be self-orienting". So, most of the health care centers frequently delay prescribing insulin injections in favor of less-effective oral medications. He received that life-saving shot in 1922. And for long time researchers have pursued a way to orally control insulin. This MIT invention may finally break that losing streak.

Taking the pill completely exclude the possibility of an overdose of insulin. Science notes, "Biologics, which include seven of the 10 top-selling drugs by sales in the United States, are more likely to hit a target molecule in the body without side effects due to their large size".


Traverso and his colleagues had gone through several challenges like navigating extremes in pH, thick mucus layers, temperature, and reliable orientation for the microneedle to inject into the stomach lining. When the S.O.M.A is swallowed, it rights itself inside the stomach, using gravity to land and remain upright on the stomach wall. The needle's shaft is built from a biodegradable material that doesn't enter the stomach wall. The needle is attached to a compressed spring installed on a sugar disk, according to the study. As the disk dissolves, the spring releases the needle and injects the drug into the stomach wall.

When the device reaches the stomach, the capsule reorients itself and injects the insulin into the lining of the stomach.

In a news release, the MIT scientists said that the mechanism is inspired by the leopard tortoise, found in Africa. The scientists used computer modeling to design their own version of a self-righting tortoise shell, creating a capsule that can orientate itself correctly, even in the stomach. Or as some people might remember advertising from the 1970s for Weebles, "Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down". When ingested this insulin gets injected into the stomach wall.

The team tested it on a pig first and administered microneedles loaded with 0.3mg human insulin combined with poly (ethylene) oxide (PEO). The spring and the other parts of the capsule are eliminated though the digestive system without causing problems. You can further help us by making a donation.

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