The Rani Pill transports an injection right to the gut, where there are no sharp pain receptors. As many as one in four Americans are afraid of needles. That's led a handful of start-ups to develop alternatives to hypodermic syringes. This would be good news for health care: While needles provide an effective tool for vaccinations and treatments that the stomach's digestive juices would neutralize if taken orally, needle phobia keeps many from getting the care they need. But surveys indicate that the number of needle-averse among us is closer to one in four.
For the last 100 years, diabetics have had to rely on at least two insulin injections a day to control their blood sugar. But a pill could banish the need for shots forever, a new study says. The capsule contains a tiny needle that is made almost completely of freeze-dried insulin, and a spring - all held in place by a disc of sugar. Once the pill reaches the stomach, water dissolves the disk, releasing the spring, and pushing out the to inject the stomach with the all-important insulin. The team, from Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says this localized approach is more pleasant to take, easier to carry around and less expensive than traditional injections.
Given the choice between tossing back a dose of medicine and pushing it through your flesh inside a cold, steel needle, most people pick the pill. Convenience, portability, and lack of skin-stabbiness have made pills the most popular way to administer drugs for the better part of medical history. But not all drugs can survive the corrosive, churning trip from the stomach into the intestines and across to the bloodstream. Antibodies, proteins--these molecules are too fragile. That's why you still have to get your immunizations as shots, and why many diabetics have to inject themselves twice a day with insulin to keep their blood sugar levels from getting toxic.
Pills containing miniature hypodermics that can painlessly inject drugs into the lining of the stomach have shown promise in initial tests in pigs. Each pill capsule contains a number of tiny injectors. Inside each injector is a needle with a tip mostly made of a dried drug, such as insulin. The shape of these injectors – rounded with a flat bottom – was inspired by the leopard tortoise, and means they self-right within around a tenth of a second after landing of the floor of the stomach, ensuring the needle points downwards. At the base of the needle is a compressed spring held in place by sugar.
Back in 1985, the best robotic surgeon we had was the PUMA 560, a manipulator arm just barely more advanced than Rocky Balboa's robo-butler. The PUMA was nevertheless revolutionary. It was the very first mechanical operator, progenitor to steady-handed robo-surgeons like of the DaVinci system. But in the near future, robots will no longer be cutting into us -- from the outside, at least. Even as the the current generation of robotic surgeons continues to shrink, with miniscule pincers and malleable toolsets capable of curling their way through our innards, the medical community is working to develop robotic surgical devices capable of operating autonomously, or at least remotely.