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Insulin is an example of medication that cannot be taken in the form of a pill: it must be injected. But a new type of capsule could make it possible to deliver insulin into the body by having the patient swallow a pill.
Researchers at MIT in the United States have developed a capsule that will cope with this. The capsule itself has a small robotic head that can create a temporary tunnel through the mucus in the stomach and deliver the insulin to the cells in the intestinal wall and then be carried on into the body.
The mucus in the stomach protects the stomach itself from being eaten away by the stomach acid, but it also means that medicines based on large molecules, such as insulin, cannot get further into the body from the stomach.
"By displacing the mucus, we can maximize the distribution of the drug and improve the absorption of both small and large molecules", says Giovanni Traverso, researcher at MIT and one of the researchers behind the study, in a press release.
The pill is 2.5 centimeters long and 1 centimeter wide. In other words, it is about the same size as some multivitamin pills. Swallowing it should therefore not be a problem.
The first results are promising, but there is more to do before the pill can be used in healthcare. The researchers will now go further and investigate whether the pill can affect the bacterial flora in the mucus and how it works for people with a weakened immune system.