A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) led team have developed a drug capsule that can be used to deliver oral doses of insulin, potentially removing the necessity of daily injections in patients with type I diabetes.
The pill, about the size of a blueberry contains a tiny needle made of compressed insulin which is injected once the capsule reaches the stomach.
The tests on animals clearly indicate the drug capsules’ potential of delivering insulin in human patients as well as demonstrating that it could also deliver any similar protein drugs.
Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, said: “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.”
The tip of the needle is composed of nearly 100% compressed freeze-dried insulin. The shaft of the needle, which does not enter the stomach wall is composed of other biodegradable material.
Within the actual capsule itself, the needle is attached to a compressed spring that is held in place by a disk made of sugar. When the capsule is ingested, water in the stomach dissolves the sugar, releasing the spring and thereby injecting the needle into the wall of the stomach. Since the stomach wall has no pain receptors, the patients will not be able to feel the injection.
To ensure actual injection, the drug has been designed meticulously so that no matter how the capsule lands in the stomach, it is able to reorientate itself so it is in line with the stomach wall.
The MIT team is now aiming to continue work with pharma giant Novo Nordisk to further develop the technology and optimise its functions. Researchers believe that this type of drug delivery system could be useful for any protein drug that requires injection, such as immunosuppressants used to treat inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally it may also work for nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA.