Ingestible device delivers insulin painlessly through stomach wall
NIBIB funded bioengineers have developed a swallowed device that attaches to the stomach wall and painlessly injects a therapeutic dose of insulin. The technology aims to simplify daily delivery of insulin and other protein drugs.
Injections of insulin, often several times a day, is life-saving for diabetics but is a difficult and painful regimen to adhere to. For years, researchers have worked to create a technology to allow diabetics to take insulin orally. However, because the stomach digests and deactivates proteins like insulin, delivering the insulin orally while avoiding digestion has been a formidable challenge.
Now, an MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) led research team has developed a swallowed capsule that painlessly injects insulin into the stomach wall, where it is absorbed into the system.
Says David Rampulla, Ph.D., director of the NIBIB Division of Discovery Science and Technology, “The group has developed a number of approaches focused on oral delivery of non-protein medications, as well as sensors that are able to detect and send a signal indicating the existence of disease. In this current work they have overcome a number of obstacles with innovative engineering to allow the protein drug, insulin, to be successfully administered through the stomach in a pig model.”
“We developed a small pod-like device that incorporates the features needed to protect insulin from digestion but then also successfully delivers the insulin through the muscular stomach wall into the circulatory system,” explained senior co-author of the study Giovanni Traverso, an assistant professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and a visiting scientist in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
The shape of the small pod was one of the keys to the successful design. It was inspired by the shape of the leopard tortoise, whose roof-peak-like top and flat bottom allow it to easily roll and right itself if turned over. The engineers used the shape to build a capsule that, after arriving in the stomach, rolls until it stops upright with the flat surface against the stomach wall.