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article imageNew drug delivery-method makes injections obsolete Special

By Travis McKnight     Oct 6, 2014 in Health
Patients who hate receiving medication through injections are in luck. According to a recent study by MIT, a newly-developed drug capsule bypasses the need for shots by injecting medicine directly into a patient's organs.
Having a fear of needles and injection-based medication is common, especially among younger children, and various studies have shown that most patients prefer to take their medication orally. However, from a medicinal standpoint, capsule-based drugs can be problematic because some medications, particularly those made from large proteins, are dissolved by stomach acids before being absorbed into the bloodstream. But a new paper, published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, discusses an innovative capsule design that bypasses this dilemma and in some cases is more effective than a traditional injection.
Researchers at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital have created a unique drug capsule coated with tiny needles which inject drugs directly into a patient’s stomach lining after being swallowed. The research team tested the drug-delivery capsule in pigs, and used insulin as the delivered drug. After a week, the capsules traversed through the entire digestive tract and the researchers found no traces of tissue damage, which supports previous studies where humans have accidentally ingested sharp objects without being injured. The researchers are suggesting that this correlation means it might be safe to swallow a capsule covered in short needles.
"This could be a way that the patient can circumvent the need to have an infusion or subcutaneous administration of a drug," says Giovanni Traverso, a research fellow at MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, a gastroenterologist at MGH, and one of the lead authors of the paper, in a press release.
Traverso and his colleagues wanted to design a capsule that serves as a delivery platform for a wide range of therapeutics, and prevents the common negative effects of capsules containing protein-based drugs by injecting a drug payload directly into the lining of the patient’s gastrointestinal tract. The prototype acrylic capsule is two centimeters long and one centimeter in diameter, includes a tank for the drug and is coated with hollow, stainless steel needles that are about five millimeters long.
During their experiments on pigs, the researchers discovered the capsule delivered insulin more efficiently than a traditional injection under the skin, and the pig suffered no harmful side effects while the device passed through the animals’ digestive systems.
The results also show that the micro-needle design successfully injected insulin into the lining of the pig’s stomach, small intestine, and colon, which caused the animals' blood glucose levels to drop at a faster and more significant amount than seen with a normal insulin injection.
Although the researchers tested the micro-needle capsule using insulin as the drug base, they believe that its best purpose will be delivering biopharmaceuticals, such as antibodies, which are often used to treat cancer and autoimmune disorders like arthritis and Crohn's disease.
This class of drugs, referred to as biologics, also includes vaccines, recombinant DNA, and RNA.
“This new approach to drug delivery could be beneficial to hospitals for a variety of reasons. It is more easily administered by nurses, and because of the greater prevention of degradation of the medication, it would reduce waste, saving hospitals money," said Ken Perez, the vice president of healthcare policy at Omnicell, an automated healthcare solutions company based in Mountain View, Calif. "And if this approach is applied to administration of vaccines that would otherwise need to be injected, it would benefit medication administration in non-acute care settings, such as clinics and retail pharmacies, and possibly even in non-healthcare settings, such as homes.”
While the idea of getting pricked by one needle might scare some people, ingesting a drug coated in needles might seem terrifying. Luckily, the gastrointestinal track has no pain receptors, so when the drug is injected the patient won’t feel any pain.
Researchers say their next step is to engineer the capsule so it administers the drug automatically at certain intervals during the trip through a patient's GI tract. Plus, they're investigating how to create the needles out of polymers and sugar so they break off during the process and slowly inject medication that way, which will further minimize any potential risk.
More about Healthcare, infusion, Injections, Mit, Massachusetts general hopsital
 
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