Researchers from MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital have designed a new type of pill that, once swallowed, can attach to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and slowly release its contents. The tablet is engineered so that one side adheres to tissue, while the other repels food and liquids that would otherwise pull it away from the attachment site.
Such extended-release pills could be used to reduce the dosage frequency of some drugs, the researchers say. For example, antibiotics that normally have to be taken two or three times a day could be given just once, making it easier for patients to stick to their dosing schedule.
"This could be adapted to many drugs. Any drug that is dosed frequently could be amenable to this kind of system," says Giovanni Traverso, a research affiliate at MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and one of the senior authors of a paper describing the device in the April 6 issue of the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials.
Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor and a member of the Koch Institute, is also a senior author of the paper. The paper's lead author is Young-Ah Lucy Lee, a technical assistant at the Koch Institute.
Over the past several decades, Langer's lab has developed many types of materials that can be implanted in the body or attached to the skin for long-term drug release. To achieve similar, long-term drug release in the gastrointestinal tract, the researchers focused on a type of material known as mucoadhesives, which can stick to the mucosal linings of organs such as the stomach.
Scientists have previously explored using this kind of material for drug delivery to the GI tract, but it has proven difficult because food and liquid in the stomach become stuck to the tablet, pulling it away from the tissue before it can deliver its entire drug payload.
"The challenge with mucoadhesives is that the GI tract is a very rough and abrasive environment," says Lee, a 2014 Wellesley College graduate who began this project as her senior thesis.
To overcome this challenge, the researchers decided to create a dual-sided device, also called a Janus device after the two-faced Roman god. One side sticks to mucosal surfaces, while the other is omniphobic, meaning that it repels everything it encounters.
New extended-release pills could reduce dosage frequency of some drugs: Researchers from MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital have designed a new type of pill that, once swallowed, can attach to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and slowly release its contents. The tablet is engineered so that one side adheres to tissue, while the other repels food and liquids that would otherwise pull it away from the attachment site.