A Pill Covered in Tiny Needles Could Potentially Replace Injections
the MPR take:
Despite a preference from patients and physicians for oral drug administration, biologics require delivery via injection due to susceptibility to proteases, endonucleases, bacteria, and pH extremes in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a novel capsule for oral drug administration that could lead to alternatives in drug delivery for a range of biopharmaceuticals, including vaccines and insulin. The capsule is 2cm long and 1cm in diameter with a reservoir for the drug and coated with hollow stainless steel needles approximately 5mm in length. In a proof-of-concept animal study, insulin administration in the GI tract via the capsules was more effective than subcutaneous administration, with improved pharmacokinetics and a greater hypoglycemic effect. Next steps include modification of the capsule to include needles comprised of degradable polymers and sugar that would break off and become embedded in the gut lining for slow disintegration and release of the drug.
Both patients and physicians prefer the oral route of drug delivery. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract, though, limits the bioavailability of certain therapeutics because of its protease and bacteria-rich environment as well as general pH variability from pH 1 to 7. These extreme environments make oral delivery particularly challenging for the biologic class of therapeutics.