Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Shot in the Gut

PostedFebruary 13, 2019

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Lede: No one likes injections. So the thought of getting them inside your body – by swallowing a pill with tiny needles – doesn’t, at first, sound appealing. But new research shows it’s a promising idea.

Randy Atkins: The goal is to engineer a pill for drugs that currently require an injection. Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an MIT researcher, has created a device with an easily-swallowed smooth outer coating.

Giovanni Traverso: But then, once it reaches the G-I tract, that coating would dissolve revealing the needles.

Randy Atkins: Injections would happen as the digestive system squeezes and pushes the pill along…or through a biodegradable needle that breaks off like a bee’s stinger. In animal tests with insulin…

Giovanni Traverso: …we could deliver it and actually it seemed to be delivered more effectively, at least in this very preliminary work.

Randy Atkins: The needles are tiny but, even so, Traverso points out that the GI tract doesn’t have much sensation…so you, literally, wouldn’t feel a thing. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News