High-Tech Capsule Could One Day Replace Insulin Injections

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Daily insulin injections given to people with diabetes may disappear in the future thanks to a capsule that releases insulin directly into the stomach, a technique that has been tested so far in pigs, according to a report published by the "Science" journal. A team led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a capsule that contains a small needle made of compressed insulin. 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. Additionally, they demonstrated that the gadget would be tailored to ship different protein medicine. In 2014, Langer and his colleagues developed a pill with tiny needles that will inject the drug into the stomach lining.

Since the capsule has only one needle, it has to be able to orient itself to deliver the injection.

Once the insulin was absorbed, the capsule, made of stainless steel and a biodegradable material, floated free and was excreted. The shaft of the needle does not enter the stomach and is biodegradable.

Approximately the size of a pea, the SOMA houses a needle made of insulin and its injection is controlled by a spring held in place by a sugar disc. When the capsule reaches the stomach, this sugar dissolves, releasing the spring and the needle in turn.

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You won't be able to feel it, due to the lack of pain receptors within the gastrointestinal tract, says co-author Robert Langer at MIT.

So, the researchers borrowed "technology" from the leopard tortoise, found in Africa. "Our motivation is to make it easier for patients to take medication, particularly medications that require an injection", Traverso says. The insulin will take about an hour before it is fully absorbed in the bloodstream. This tortoise has a dome like shell which is high and allows it to set itself right when it rolls on its back.

The group created computer models to design a variant of the shape for their capsule, which allows it to orient itself even in the stomach. Video credit: Diana Saville " If a person were to move around or the stomach were to growl, the device would not move from its preferred orientation", said Giovanni Traverso, also senior study author.

The metal spring and rest of the capsule passed through the digestive system, without seeming to cause any problems.

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A team of scientists from Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, MIT, and Novo Nordisk has discovered a new way to bring closer to the clinic an oral formation of insulin, which can be ingested instead of injected.

One of the most common diseases in the world is diabetes and some people suffering from the condition are insulin dependent.

Other authors of this study include Alex Abramson, Ester Caffarel-Salvador, Minsoo Khang, David Dellal, David Silverstein, Yuan Gao, Morten Revsgaard Frederiksen, Andreas Vegge, František Hubálek, Jorrit J. Water, Anders V. Friderichsen, Johannes Fels, Rikke Kaae Kirk, Cody Cleveland, Joy Collins, Siddartha Tamang, Alison Hayward, Tomas Landh, Stephen T. Buckley, Niclas Roxhed, and Ulrik Rahbek.

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