By Diane Ivey
Americans may still be digesting their Thanksgiving leftovers, but there’s a new method of drug delivery to chew on: pills covered with needles that inject drugs directly into the stomach lining. According to an article from Popular Science, researchers from MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital have created a capsule coated with tiny needles that patients can swallow, enabling direct drug delivery to the stomach lining.
The press release, from MIT News, indicates that the capsule could solve a common problem in drug delivery: “…many drugs, especially those made from large proteins, cannot be given as a pill because they get broken down in the stomach before they can be absorbed.” With the injection taking place after swallowing, this is no longer the case.
According to the article, the researchers tested the capsule on pigs, using insulin. “Made of stainless steel, the pills contain a pool of insulin in the center and hollow needles on the outside, which pump insulin into the stomach, intestines, and colon over the course of a week. The capsules are as big around as a shirt button and about as long as a thumbnail, making them about the size of a large vitamin.” It was discovered that the capsule was more effective at delivering insulin than an injection under the skin, and there were no harmful side effects.
Researchers said the capsules could be used to deliver biologics, including vaccines and antibodies.
As someone whose palms start sweating at the very mention of needles, I think this is a great solution to a pretty common problem. I mean, does anyone like receiving injections? I know they are necessary and even life-saving at times, but I’m willing to bet many people would choose to swallow a pill rather than get a shot. The idea of a bunch of tiny needles injecting themselves into my stomach may not be pleasant, but at least I don’t have to sit in a waiting room anticipating the worst. This idea eliminates that nervous, staring at the clock, trying to make small talk with the person about to stick a needle in me, hoping I don’t visibly wince feeling. A pill means I don’t have to think about it at all. And that’s much easier to swallow.