Sun | Feb 17, 2019

Pea-sized pill delivers insulin shot from inside the stomach

Published:Friday | February 8, 2019 | 4:48 PM
AP photo

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists figured out how to hide a shot inside a pea-sized pill — creating a swallowable gadget, inspired by a tortoise shell, that can inject medicines like insulin from inside the stomach.

Patients usually prefer oral treatment and comply with it better, but many compounds, including insulin for diabetes, can’t survive the harsh trip through the digestive system.

The new invention, reported Thursday by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-led research team, has been tested only in animals so far. But if it pans out, it might offer a work-around to make not just insulin but a variety of usually injected medicines a little easier to take.

“It’s like a miniaturised rocket launcher” for insulin, said Willem Mulder of Mount Sinai’s Translational and Molecular Imaging Institute, who wasn’t involved in the new research.

Scientists have spent decades trying to develop oral insulin and replace at least some of the daily shots that many people with diabetes require.

Attempts include ways to protect insulin from digestive breakdown and then help it be absorbed through the intestine into the bloodstream.

So far none has reached the market, although some closely watched candidates are being tested.

An ingestible injection could bypass the hazards of that journey — letting insulin absorb through the wall of the stomach, said Dr. Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist at Boston’s Brigham & Women’s Hospital and a senior author of the study.

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