Diabetes: a pill to replace all injections


Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a pill able to deliver a dose of insulin directly to the stomach for diabetics.

Enclosed in a thin sugar capsule, this pill contains a small needle with a compressed point made of lyophilised insulin. Once the capsule is broken down by the gastric fluids, a tiny spring ejects this needle into the stomach wall where it injects the insulin.

In order to design how the pill will position itself in the moving stomach, the researchers looked at the leopard tortoise. This animal is unique in that its high rounded shell allows it to turn itself over in any environment. In much the same way, the pill can always reach the stomach wall, and the insulin can thus be absorbed by the body in less than an hour.

Though yet to be tested in humans, the drug has featured in many ex vivo and in vivo experiments on pigs. The results show that one week after ingestion, the pigs’ gastric mucous lining was still intact and their bowel movements unaffected. This approach holds enormous promise, with even the potential to be used in treating other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory stomach diseases.