Technology 3 min read

Scientists Develop a Capsule That Uses Microneedle for Drug Delivery

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Engineers at MIT have designed a new capsule that can release drugs into the intestinal walls via a microneedle. According to the researchers, this form of drug delivery could be an adequate replacement for injections

Our gastrointestinal tracts break down drugs that are made of protein – such as insulin – before they can even take effect. As a result, medical experts depend on injections rather than oral delivery to get these drugs into the body.

But, it’s no secret that most patients and health care providers prefer the oral route of drug administration. Motivated by this knowledge,  a team of MIT engineers decided to provide an alternative to big needles – tiny ones.

They invented a new drug capsule to carry and protect protein-based drugs from the harsh conditions in the gastrointestinal tract.

The capsule’s dissolvable microneedles attach to the intestinal wall for efficient drug delivery. Similar to injections, it results in a  fast uptake into the bloodstream.

Speaking about the innovative method of drug delivery, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, Robert Langersaid:

“We are really pleased with the latest results of the new oral delivery device our lab members have developed with our collaborators, and we look forward to hopefully seeing it help people with diabetes and others in the future.”

Creating a Microneedle Drug Delivery For Insulin

The small intestine has an extensive surface area – about 250 square meters, which makes it an ideal absorption site for most drugs. Also, the researchers noted that absence of pain receptors in this part of the body.

All these make a pain-free micro-injection in the small intestine a possible way of delivering a drug into the body.  First, the capsule must survive the harsh environment of the gastrointestinal tracts.

For this part, researchers coated the capsule with a polymer to protect it from acidic conditions in the stomach. On exposure to the small intestine’s low acidic conditions, the polymer breaks down to reveal three folded arms.

Enclosed within each arm is a microneedle or a one-millimeter-long needle, which attaches to the intestine wall. After insertion, the needle releases the drugs and dissolves.

While the new capsule is a smart way of administering insulin, the researchers envision other drug delivery applications.

Senior author of the study, Giovanni Traverso noted:

We can deliver insulin, but we see applications for many other therapeutics and possibly vaccines. We’re working very closely with our collaborators to identify the next steps and applications where we can have the greatest impact.”

Read More: Nanoscale Biodegradable “Bottles” for Targeted Drug Delivery

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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