A smart “pill” based on the shape of a turtle could replace the regular injections needed by people with diabetes and other long-term conditions.
The idea is that the capsule — the size of a blueberry — can be filled with a single dose of medication and swallowed instead of a shot.
Flat on one side and domed on the other, the capsule is based on the African leopard tortoise, which can easily tip over on its legs after a fall or attack.
The bottom of the pill is weighted so that once it’s rolled down the esophagus and arrived in the stomach, it won’t settle until the flat bottom “finds its footing” and touches the inside of the stomach.
The plastic capsule contains a small needle (approximately 4.5 mm long) which is held in place by a solid sugar granule that dissolves approximately four minutes after coming into contact with the high moisture content in the stomach.
The idea is that the capsule – the size of a blueberry – can be filled with a single dose of medication and swallowed instead of a shot.
The dissolving sugar activates a locking system that releases the drug through a small needle into the stomach wall, from where it goes directly into the bloodstream.
The level of moisture required to activate this means there is a time delay before the needle is released, preventing its activation earlier in the digestion process.
Once injected, the needle is then pulled back into the capsule via a small spring and the entire device passes safely through the digestive system.
The researchers behind the capsule say the injection would be painless because there are no pain receptors in the gastric mucosa.
The idea is that the capsule can be filled with insulin, for example to replace the different injections needed every day for many diabetic patients (multiple pills may still be needed as the capsules are single use).
They can also be used in place of the adrenaline auto-injectors worn by people who suffer from severe allergies.
And the capsule could deliver treatments such as monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). The man-made versions of antibodies are specifically designed to fight certain diseases, including breast cancer and autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s disease.
While potentially groundbreaking, mAbs and other biologics are made from proteins that are targeted by enzymes high in the digestive tract — meaning they won’t survive long enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream if taken as a pill. For this reason, they must be administered intravenously or as an injection. This is where the pod could enter.
When the capsule, called the L-SOMA, was tried on pigs, it effectively delivered 4 mg of the biologic Humira (used for rheumatoid arthritis) into their stomach and 80 percent of the drug was absorbed within half an hour of taking it. the journal Nature Biotechnology.
It is hoped that human trials of the capsule, which was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the US, will begin soon.
“Injections are often unpopular with patients, so another option is highly sought after,” said Abdul Basit, a professor of pharmacy at University College London.
“The success of this study is a positive sign, but will likely need to improve if the device is to pass clinical trials for use in humans.”
“If successful, the capsule could become invaluable for patients who are afraid of injections, or who don’t like going to regular medical appointments or injecting themselves.”
Postponing retirement until after age 67 may limit cognitive decline and even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, a study has shown. Based on data from 20,000 Americans, it confirms previous studies that suggest remaining in the workforce is a key factor in brain health — possibly because it prevents depression linked to dementia.
The Latest Treatment for Arthritis? Broccolisoup!
Broccoli soup can help relieve arthritis pain.
To test the theory, a three-month trial at the University of East Anglia will follow 50 patients with moderate to severe knee damage.
They get broccoli soup (made from a variety not available to consumers) or other types of vegetable soup four days a week.
Previous research has shown that sulforaphane, a compound in the vegetable, blocks the effects of harmful enzymes that destroy cartilage.
Participants will have their mobility and pain measured, and blood and urine tests to monitor their sulforaphane levels.
Botox in your stomach can help with weight loss
A ‘Botox’ injection in the stomach is being tested as a weight loss treatment.
In an ongoing study at Trondheim University Hospital in Norway, 20 obese adults are given injections of botulinium toxin or a placebo into muscles in their stomach lining.
The injection is given through an endoscope – a narrow tube that is passed down the throat into the stomach.
The theory is that the treatment delays gastric emptying, making the patient feel full for longer.
The hope is that this could be an alternative to procedures such as bariatric surgery, thus reducing the risk of complications.
Medical treatments that turn your stomach. This Week: Parasites to Help Crohn’s Disease
Having parasitic worms in the gut can reduce symptoms of Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory bowel disease that causes abdominal pain and diarrhea), according to research in the journal Gut.
In the 2005 study from Iowa University in the US, 29 people with Crohn’s disease were given 2,500 live Trichuris suis worm eggs every three weeks to ingest.
At the end of the six-month study, 23 had fewer symptoms and 21 had none — and no side effects.
The theory is that parasitic worms, or worms, dampen the more aggressive parts of the immune system to aid their survival — resulting in controlling inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s disease.
‘In time, we will have treatments based on substances that produce worms,’ says Graham Rook, professor emeritus of medical microbiology at University College London.
Did you know?
Being active on Twitter could counterintuitively reduce symptoms of depression, reports Vanderbilt University in the US
Researchers tracked Twitter use in about 300 people and compared it to their depression symptoms and real-life social support.
More social media use was associated with lower symptoms of depression in people with low social support, possibly because it compensated for less face-to-face contact.