New microneedle pill for painless insulin injection

New microneedle pill for painless insulin injection

A new study shows that scientists have developed a drug capsule that could be used to deliver oral doses of insulin, potentially replacing injections for patients with Type-2 diabetes. It contains a tiny needle made of freeze-dried compressed insulin, which is released and injected into the stomach's lining.

Many people with diabetes are forced daily to do 3-6 injections of insulin to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Also, the MIT-led team found that the technique can used to deliver other protein drugs too.

The researchers also had to make sure the capsule had a chance to right itself before the injection occurred.

The new pill's single tip is made of nearly 100 percent compressed, freeze-dried insulin. The needle's shaft is built from a biodegradable material that doesn't enter the stomach wall.

The article adds that a tiny coiled spring held in a ready position by a disk made of sugar, compresses the needle once stomach fluids dissolve the sugar disk. As the disk dissolves, the spring releases the needle and injects the drug into the stomach wall. As the stomach wall does not possess pain receptors the researchers are hopeful that this could be a preferable method of administration compared to traditional injection. They came up with a variant of this shape for their capsule so that no matter how the capsule lands in the stomach, it can orient itself so the needle is in contact with the lining of the stomach. Patients with T1D produce very little or no insulin meaning they require insulin to be administered every day to allow them to regulate the levels of glucose in their bloodstream. So, they turned to an unlikely animal for inspiration: the leopard tortoise. The leopard tortoise shell has a high, steep dome, which helps it roll back to its feet if it finds itself on its back.

"If a person were to move around or the stomach were to growl, the device would not move from its preferred orientation", Alex Abramson, first author of the study published in Science, said in a statement. The spring and the other parts of the capsule are eliminated though the digestive system without causing problems. "Although we need to investigate further, this could be a potential way to deliver many medications such as immune-suppressants to treat rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel diseases", said Traverso.

The researchers describe the capsule as "about the size of a pea" and made from biodegradable polymer and bits of stainless steel.

Other authors of the paper include Ester Caffarel-Salvador, Minsoo Khang, David Dellal, David Silverstein, Yuan Gao, Morten Revsgaard Frederiksen, Andreas Vegge, Frantisek Hubalek, Jorrit Water, Anders Friderichsen, Johannes Fels, Rikke Kaae Kirk, Cody Cleveland, Joy Collins, Siddartha Tamang, Alison Hayward, Tomas Landh, Stephen Buckley, Niclas Roxhed, and Ulrik Rahbek. A team of investigators from Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, MIT, and Novo Nordisk has pioneered a new approach that brings closer to the clinic an oral formulation of insulin that can be swallowed rather than injected.