New ways of dispensing medication could help with many diseases
Researchers have now succeeded in developing a new drug capsule that remains in our stomach up to two weeks after being swallowed. This allows the capsule to gradually release the medication it contains into the body. This type of drug delivery could solve many of the problems associated with repeated drug treatment.
Scientists from the recognized Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital manufactured a capsule that delivered medication to our bodies over a two-week period. The experts published the results of their study in the medical journal "Science Translational Medicine".
Drug capsules enable effective treatment of malaria
The new medication capsule is particularly interesting for treatments with repetitive doses of medication, the doctors explain. The capsules could help to overcome one of the main obstacles to the treatment and potential elimination of diseases such as malaria, the authors explain in a press release from MIT.
Capsules could also be used for many other diseases
In their investigation, the researchers used the capsules to deliver the drug ivermectin to the body. By doing so, they hoped to get rid of malaria. However, the approach could also be applicable to many other diseases, explains author Professor Robert Langer from MIT.
The effects of oral medication usually do not last longer than a day
Nowadays, the effects of oral medications almost never last longer than a day, the doctors explain. The new capsules seem to offer a very long-lasting oral system for many types of diseases, such as Alzheimer's or mental disorders. There are many exciting things that the drug capsules could one day make possible, adds Professor Langer.
Initial focus of the investigation on the malaria drug ivermectin
Oral medications tend to work only for a limited time because they travel quickly through the body and are exposed to the effects of the stomach and intestines. Years of research in the laboratory have enabled the experts to overcome this problem. The initial focus of the study was on the malaria drug ivermectin, the authors say. This usually kills mosquitoes that sting the user of the drug. This greatly reduces the transmission of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.
Capsule leads to long-term administration of medication
Taking medicine daily is a real challenge. If administered medicine could be effective for a long period of time, it would radically improve the effectiveness of mass medication, the experts explain in the press release. To achieve a very long-term release of the medication, it must be packaged in a capsule that is stable enough to survive the harsh environment of the stomach and to release its content over time.
Capsules contain a star-shaped structure with the drug
Taking these criteria into account, the team designed a star-shaped structure with six arms, which can be folded inwards and encased in a smooth capsule, the doctors explain. Drug molecules are then placed in the arms. Each of these arms is attached to a rubber-like core.
Star-shaped medication can stay in the stomach and resist the forces there
After the capsule has been swallowed, acid in the stomach dissolves the outer layer of the capsule. The six arms can then unfold. Once the star has expanded, it becomes large enough to stay in the stomach and withstand the forces of the stomach, the scientists explain. These would normally push the object further into the digestive tract. The property is also small enough to avoid damaging the digestive tract, the experts add.
Researchers are now working on capsules for HIV and tuberculosis
Various tests on pigs have already shown that the drug is gradually released over two weeks. The development is more or less a platform in which any medication can be incorporated, the researchers explain. Frequent dosing can thus be replaced by a single administration. The new approach is a remarkable advance that could improve the treatment of malaria and other diseases that require long-term treatment. Research is now focused on developing similar capsules that are effective against other tropical diseases, HIV and tuberculosis, the authors explain. (as)