MIT scientists develop capsule for oral administration of injectable drugs

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

Let’s face it, nobody likes getting a shot at the doctor. There’s the physical pain, and well… yeah, that’s pretty much the worst of it. They hurt. Now just imagine if you had to receive injections on a regular basis, like having to take insulin for diabetes.

Such drugs can’t be administered orally because they are broken down by your gastrointestinal tract before they have a chance to enter your bloodstream and go to work. Therefore, you're stuck getting an injection.

That may not be the case for much longer if researchers at MIT have anything to say about it.

In partnership with scientists at pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, engineers at MIT have developed a new drug capsule capable of transporting insulin or other protein-based drugs past the harsh environment of the stomach and into the small intestine. Here, the higher Ph (around six) triggers the capsule to break open and three small arms spring out.

The arms contain patches of 1-millimeter-long microneedles that carry insulin or other drugs. Once the needles penetrate the top layer of the small intestine tissue, they dissolve and release their payload. The arms also break apart and pass safely, ensuring they won’t cause blockage in the intestine.

David Putnam, a professor of biomedical engineering and chemical and biomolecular engineering at Cornell University, said delivering proteins is the holy grail of drug deliver. “People have been trying to do it for decades,” he added.

The study, Microneedle patch drug delivery in the gut, has been published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Masthead credit: Syringe by PhotobyTawat

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VitalyT

Russ-Puss
A dubious invention, for convenience over efficiency, when it is a health matter. An improved injection gun would be much more practical. Too many types of medicine that require very accurate dosage and immediate reaction.

A self-sterilizing injection gun with granular dosage presets would make a good news.
 
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Fimbulvetr

TS Enthusiast
A dubious invention, for convenience over efficiency, when it is a health matter. .
I work for a large pharmaceutical. While your suggestion of an improved gun has merit, if you've ever had a child that gets daily injections ask you if there is any way he or she can get the medicine they need to stay alive with a pill instead of a needle every day, you might consider this more than a 'dubious invention'.
 
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dualkelly

TS Booster
I work for a large pharmaceutical. While your suggestion of an improved gun has merit, if you've ever had a child that gets daily injections ask you if there is any way he or she can get the medicine they need to stay alive with a pill instead of a needle every day, you might consider this more than a 'dubious invention'.
Not only that but alot of research has tied too many injections in children from ages 2-5 with needle phobia later in adults which sounds benign however needle phobia has been deeply tied to why anti-vaxxers at a gut level are afraid of vaccines. In fact Amy Baxter a pediatrician and doctor noticed this trend and created Buzzy Bee which is pretty much in use in most pediatrician offices and hospital across the country now and internationally. It's a vibrating toy that activates the pain receptors so an injection wont be felt by the kids.
 
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Theinsanegamer

TS Evangelist
A dubious invention, for convenience over efficiency, when it is a health matter. An improved injection gun would be much more practical. Too many types of medicine that require very accurate dosage and immediate reaction.

A self-sterilizing injection gun with granular dosage presets would make a good news.
Hardly dubious. Ask diabetics what they think of shooting themselves up with insulin multiple times a day, and how dangerous it can be if one of those injection sites gets infected, and how the skin gets hard and lumpoy if you use it too much, so you are constantly watching your body trying to heal from your medicine use, and you'll find there is STRONG demand for this kind of medicine.

And things like pumps? Great in practice, but they exasperate the problems needles already have. When I remove an old insulin site for a pump, that skin remains hard and sensitive for 3-4 days. The sets get replaced every 2 days. So you are constantly reminded of where they once were, and it is very uncomfortable.

No more carrying big medicine bags, or having to change needles in a public space, or smelling insulin whenever a shot is prepared. Combine these insulin capsules with the tattoo that can rad blood sugar and many of us would be jumping on that train ASAP.
 

wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
Hardly dubious. Ask diabetics what they think of shooting themselves up with insulin multiple times a day, and how dangerous it can be if one of those injection sites gets infected, and how the skin gets hard and lumpoy if you use it too much, so you are constantly watching your body trying to heal from your medicine use, and you'll find there is STRONG demand for this kind of medicine.

And things like pumps? Great in practice, but they exasperate the problems needles already have. When I remove an old insulin site for a pump, that skin remains hard and sensitive for 3-4 days. The sets get replaced every 2 days. So you are constantly reminded of where they once were, and it is very uncomfortable.

No more carrying big medicine bags, or having to change needles in a public space, or smelling insulin whenever a shot is prepared. Combine these insulin capsules with the tattoo that can rad blood sugar and many of us would be jumping on that train ASAP.
I stopped caring about what I look like in public spaces. Tough :poop: if it bothers people.

There are "jet injectors" out there. For instance, https://www.injectneedlefree.com/ which is billed as an alternative to this - https://www.injectneedlefree.com/medi-jector-alternative/ a device I used for many, many years to inject insulin. The first device looks like a modified version of another device that I had with a better and more durable head.

Each of these had their limitations. For instance, if the device was not held just right against the skin, not all of the insulin would penetrate the skin - thus giving an inaccurate dose. In addition, the previous generation of this https://www.injectneedlefree.com/ did not last very long. It lasted far less than the specified limit. I gave it up because of its unreliability. And, not that this should be a surprise, some medical insurance firms declined to cover either the devices or supplies for them.

The best thing about these devices is that they were able to dispense insulin in 1/2 unit doses which is what I needed. One other great aspect is that it is possible to give a shot with one hand - no skin pinching - which is required with some needles.

Also, neither of these devices was always pain-free, sometimes, yes, but not all the time. Actually, they were painful more often than not.

I switched to refillable pens - first this - https://www.humalog.com/type-1-diabetes/devices/luxura-hd/
then after my health insurance mandated a switch of insulin, this - https://www.novonordisk.com/patients/diabetes-care/pens--needles-and-injection-support/NovoPenEcho.html

They both offer 1/2 unit dosing with dosages from 1/2 to 30 units at a time, and since it uses a needle, there almost no chance that the dose delivered will be inaccurate.

Now I bet your going ewwwww needles. Well, couple those pens with these - https://www.adwdiabetes.com/product/18857/advocate-pen-needles-33g-4mm-100ct
33g 4mm needles, and they are, IMO, less painful than the jet injectors by far. Not only that, but the 4mm length on these needles means no skin pinching - and one-handed operation - meaning I can give a shot in my butt with these where as longer needles require skin pinching and two hands - no shots in the butt are possible with longer needles.

At this point, I will never go back to a jet injector.

I take upwards of five shots a day. I have been doing this for years. I rotate sites between injections, upper arm, thigh, butt - left side one day, right side the next. I have no skin hardening and there is very little pain.

IMO, the whole pain-free thing is yet another marketing gimmick that people buy into. Which is worse, pain or death, possibly a slow, horrible death from diabetes complications?

About five-years before the recommended way to treat diabetes was with multiple shots a day, each shot taken around meal times, I started doing this because the long-acting insulin required eating around eight-hours after the shot, and if you missed that meal or timed it just slightly wrong, insulin reactions were guaranteed.

At the time, I told a doctor I was doing that, and he looked and me and virtually said, WTF? Why would you want to take multiple shots a day? To me, there was that "Oh you poor diabetic. It must be so painful for you to take so many shots a day!" My take on that - the doctor had absolutely no personal experience with diabetes.

Then, five years later, guess what? Multiple shots a day became the defacto-standard for treating diabetes. For me, its simple. You do it, or suffer the consequences.

For me, especially with children, it might - not that I have any experience in the matter - help if it is somehow phrased differently. Honestly, I think having to take shots has made me less afraid of needles. I got used to it.

I cannot say that I would try these pills. I am doing well enough as it is. I got diabetes when I was twelve, and my body still produces some insulin.

I also weigh everything I eat except when I eat at a restaurant. Weighing food, IMO, is absolutely required for good control of diabetes. Doctors telling diabetics that they can eat anything they want, IMO, is not necessarily the best thing as some diabetics take it to extremes.

And, I test my blood sugar seven to eight times a day. Another absolutely necessary step. Here, too, I use 33g lancets. Almost no pain compared to larger-gauge lancets. I always test from the edge of my fingers, twice a day on each one, rotate from hand to hand, and from left finger edge to right throughout the day.

And there are plenty of studies out there that indicate getting to and maintaining a reasonable weight also helps. In fact, there has been at least one study done where type 2 diabetic patients were put into a hospital, feed 600 calories a day for 8-weeks to reduce excess body fat. For some of them, it eliminated their need for insulin - https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20110624/very-low-calorie-diet-may-reverse-diabetes

That's a drastic approach; however, for me, it clearly indicates the link between excess body fat and "insulin resistance", or as I like to refer to it, your body is telling you, "dude, you have way too much body fat already, stop overeating." Insulin's job is to turn carbohydrates into fat and store that fat.

I have been taking a slow and steady approach to losing weight. Reduced carbs/calories and regular exercise over the past three years has reduced my insulin needs by over 50%.

Well, that's my $0.02 :)
YMMV
 
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