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.
An MIT-led research team has developed a drug capsule that could be used to deliver oral doses of insulin, potentially replacing the injections that people with type 2 diabetes have to give themselves every day. About the size of a blueberry, the capsule contains a small needle made of compressed insulin, which is injected after the capsule reaches the stomach. In tests in animals, the researchers showed that they could deliver enough insulin to lower blood sugar to levels comparable to those produced by injections given through skin. They also demonstrated that the device can be adapted to deliver other protein drugs. "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," says Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, a member of MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and one of the senior authors of the study.
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.
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.
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.