A new pill developed by researchers could help replace insulin injections for patients with type 2 diabetes, according to Medical News Today. Since diabetes patients require an insulin to be injected directly into the bloodstream, the capsule contains a tiny “microneedle” made of insulin that injects itself into the wall of the stomach once swallowed.
With no pain receptors inside the stomach, this method is intended to avoid the discomfort that comes with regular injections. The capsules have been tested in pigs, and were able to deliver a dose of insulin comparable to that of injections.
Research has shown that a fear of needles is one of the most common factors preventing patients from getting their necessary insulin treatments, they even have the potential to cause injury.
“We are really hopeful that this new type of capsule could someday help diabetic patients and perhaps anyone who requires therapies that can now only be given by injection or infusion,” said Robert Langer, one of the authors of the study, which was published this week in the journal Science.
Langer is a professor at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The microneedle is composed of a tip, made entirely of compressed insulin, and a biodegradable shaft that holds the needle in place. The needle is attached to a spring, and a disc made of sugar, inside the capsule. When it enters the stomach, the disc dissolves, releasing the spring and injecting the needle.
The challenge was keeping the needle pointed in the right direction. To solve the problem, the researchers found inspiration in the shell of the leopard tortoise. With a high domed shell, the African tortoise is highly adept at righting itself when overturned.
The team used computer modeling to design a capsule shape, based on the tortoise, that would right itself and ensure the needle reaches the stomach wall no matter how it lands. It can also stay oriented correctly if a person moves around.
The rest of the capsule dissolves without causing any side effects, and the researchers have delivered up to five milligrams of insulin in pigs.
The researchers plan to continue working on the system, with additional tests on pigs as well as dogs. They say the capsule could eventually be used as a delivery method for a wide range of other drugs that require injections to be effective.