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Novel Drug Delivery Capsule May Substitute Injections

drug delivery capsule

Image credit: Christine Danilof/MIT, based on images by Schoellhammer and Traverso

As we know, if we are ill, we need some kinds of medications for treatment, but these medications have to be administered differently because of the nature of our body. For example, some biologic drugs such as antibodies, insulin, and vaccines should be more effective by means of via injection rather than orally.

However, this situation could be soon changed, because a new drug delivery system, which has been tested in pigs, could directly deliver medication to gastrointestinal tissues through an oral capsule with help of microneedles.

This new drug delivery system was developed by the team led by Giovanni Traverso and Carl Schoellhammer from MIT, and their research paper has been published in the recent edition of the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

As Traverso said in a press release, this new system could possibly help the patient swap the requirement for necessary infusion or subcutaneous administration of a drug.

The model device was sort of an acrylic capsule with the length of two centimeters long and width of one centimeter. Such capsule could be taken orally, because its size was about a large multivitamin. As designed like that, the capsule could protect the medication inside until it reached the GI tract. As soon as the capsule got to its target destination, it would be dissolved and then exposed the drug reservoir being covered with five-millimeter-long needles, which would in turn cut through the intestines when the tissue was contracted, so that it would deliver the drug in a direct way.

At present, the delivery of insulin has been tested, but it is believed by scientists that it could work more efficiently for antibodies delivery in treatment of cancers and autoimmune disorders, like arthritis or Crohn’s disease, because the nature of such treatments had been quite difficult to administer orally, instead, the invasive methods like injections could be best way for delivery.

According to Schoellhammer, the co-author of the paper, the large size of these biologic drugs could make them be nonabsorbable.  Before they were totally absorbed, they would be degraded in our GI tract by acids and enzymes, which could consume the molecules, thus making them inactive.

The capsule could prevent such degradation until it would be directly administered by the means of the microneedles. As intestines did have pain receptors, the drug administration would be not that painful. In addition scientists believed that any unseen damage to the tissue would be caused by the needles. Even it could happen, the team was making efforts to improve the device in the way that the needles would be made out of a more readily degradable material so as to avoid their detaching and being stuck in the tissue.

In the experiments targeted at pigs administered with insulin, the safety and efficacy of such delivery could be ensured, because the scientists discovered that the blood glucose levels had been regulated more rapidly and effectively in this new approach than by traditional injections.

In the prediction of Traverso, by application of their new drug delivery system, the kinetics would be much better, and much faster-onset compared with the under-the-skin administration in the  traditional way. As molecules could be particularly hard to absorb, this new approach would be the better choice to administer them more efficiently.

Source: MIT News

Journal reference: Traverso, Giovanni, et al. “Microneedles for Drug Delivery via the Gastrointestinal Tract.” Journal of pharmaceutical sciences (2014).

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