Oral insulin breakthrough

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers and scientists from Novo Nordisk have designed a drug capsule that can carry insulin or other protein drugs and protect them from the gastrointestinal tract. When the capsule reaches the small intestine, it breaks down to reveal dissolvable microneedles that attach to the intestinal wall and release the drug for uptake into the bloodstream.

Many drugs, especially those made of proteins like insulin, aren’t suitable orally because they are broken down in the gastrointestinal tract before they can take effect. Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research says, “We are really pleased with the latest results of the new oral delivery device our lab members have developed with our collaborators, and we look forward to hopefully seeing it help people with diabetes and others in the future.”

In tests in pigs, the researchers showed that the 30-millimeter-long capsules could deliver doses of insulin effectively and generate an immediate blood-glucose-lowering response. They also showed that no blockages formed in the intestine and the arms were excreted safely after applying the microneedle patches. The entire capsule and microneedles dissolve within several hours to prevent obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract.

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