OCT 13, 2022 10:00 AM PDT

Robotic Pill Effective for Oral Delivery of Medications Like Insulin

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Treating and managing diabetes can be a lot of work, and it’s a condition that affects about 10% of Americans to date. It can also be a pretty invasive process to manage this condition. People with diabetes need to maintain healthy glucose levels, which involves administering insulin on a regular basis or as needed to keep glucose levels under control. Unfortunately, injections are the most common way to administer insulin. While advances have been made in monitoring devices that reduce the need for people to regularly prick their finger for a blood sample to measure their glucose levels, injections remain the main approach to administering medication.

While taking a pill might be a more advantageous and convenient option for diabetes patients to get the insulin they need, there hasn’t been any meaningful breakthrough in developing an oral version of insulin. That’s because protein-based medications, like insulin, are not well suited to being ingested. Not only is the acidic gut a hostile environment for these types of medications, but the lining of the gut is often hard, if not impossible, for a pill to penetrate, making it near impossible for an oral pill to deliver the insulin a person with diabetes needs.

Researchers at MIT have developed a robotic drug capsule that can overcome many of these limitations facing medications like insulin. The drug capsule is described in a recent article published in Science Robotics.

 Penned “RoboCap,” the capsule is designed to deliver protein-based and other sensitive medications through the harsh environment of the gut and through the lining of the gut, where it can be absorbed into the blood stream. One side of the capsule includes room for the medication, while the other side has a spinning, drilling feature that allows it to break through the thick layer of mucus lining the gut wall.

The capsule is encased in a gelatin shell which, upon meeting the high pH acidic environment of the gut, breaks down and activates the drilling feature. The team noted that this gelatin shell could be manipulated to break down at different pH levels, allowing researchers to administer different drugs that need to be absorbed at different locations in the gut.

Sources: Medgadget; Science Robotics

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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