Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Pill Delivers Insulin Directly to the Stomach

Researchers at MIT University have developed a pill that can painlessly deliver insulin directly to a patient's stomach. The drug capsule, which is about the size of blueberry, contains a tiny needle comprised of compressed insulin. The insulin needle is injected into the stomach wall delivering enough insulin to lower blood sugar levels to the same state as traditional insulin delivery methods would. Their findings were recently published in the journal Science


“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 lead authors of the study.



From the MIT article: "The tip of the needle is made of nearly 100 percent compressed, freeze-dried insulin, using the same process used to form tablets of medicine. The shaft of the needle, which does not enter the stomach wall, is made from another biodegradable material.

Within the capsule, the needle is attached to a compressed spring that is held in place by a disk made of sugar. When the capsule is swallowed, water in the stomach dissolves the sugar disk, releasing the spring and injecting the needle into the stomach wall.

The stomach wall has no pain receptors, so the researchers believe that patients would not be able to feel the injection. To ensure that the drug is injected into the stomach wall, the researchers designed their system so that no matter how the capsule lands in the stomach, it can orient itself so the needle is in contact with the lining of the stomach."


“What’s important is that we have the needle in contact with the tissue when it is injected,” said MIT graduate student and first author of the study, Alex Abramson. “Also, if a person were to move around or the stomach were to growl, the device would not move from its preferred orientation.”


Read more about the pill that delivers insulin directly to the stomach at MIT.