Kirigami is a Japanese art form that involves cutting paper to create three-dimensional structures. Researchers at MIT have created a new type of stent that can be used inside the human body that was inspired by kirigami. The stent can be used to deliver drugs to the G.I. tract, respiratory tract, or other tubular organs within the body.
MIT’s stent is coated with a smooth layer of plastic etched with small “needles” that pop up as the tube is stretched. Those needles penetrate tissue and deliver a payload of drugs containing microparticles. The drugs are then released over an extended period after the stent is removed from the body.
MIT researchers believe that this sort of localized drug delivery could make it easier to treat inflammatory diseases that impact the G.I. tract, such as inflammatory bowel disease or eosinophilic esophagitis. MIT assistant professor of mechanical engineering and gastroenterologist Giovanni Traverso says the technology could be applied in essentially any tubular organ.
Traverso says the stent gives the ability to deliver drugs locally on an infrequent basis and maximizes the likelihood of helping to resolve conditions. He believes the new stent could be transformative in how we think about patient care by enabling local but prolonged drug delivery after a single treatment.
The big benefit of using the MIT stent to deliver drugs locally is that typically treating inflammatory diseases of the G.I. tract, such as irritable bowel disease, involves drugs that reduce the body’s immune response that are injected. The problem with injecting drugs is that they have systemic effects elsewhere in the body. Traverso and the research team wanted to devise a way to deliver drugs directly to affected tissues to reduce the chance of side effects.
The tube is designed using two key elements: a soft, stretchy tube made of silicone-based rubber and a plastic coating etched with needles that pop up when the tube stretches. Project researchers note the kirigami stents were engineered to provide a reversible shape transformation allowing them to go from flat to 3D and then to the original flat shape for easy removal.