MIT scientists develop a drug capsule that can deliver oral insulin

One of the most common diseases in the world is diabetes and some people suffering from the condition are insulin dependent. The biggest problem that insulin-dependent diabetics have with treating their condition is the number of needle sticks they have to do each day. These people have to check blood sugar levels, which requires a finger prick, and then have to inject insulin via a syringe as needed.

Scientists at MIT have developed a new capsule that they say is capable of delivering insulin orally. The capsule is about the size of a blueberry and has a small needle made of compressed insulin. When the capsule reaches the stomach of the person, the insulin is injected.

The scientists have shown that they can deliver enough insulin using this method to lower blood sugar levels to comparable levels achieved using insulin injections. The same capsule can also be adapted to deliver other protein drugs.

The team believes that this invention will one day be able to deliver any medication that currently requires injection. MIT teamed up with pharmaceutical company Norvo Nordisk for the research. One key property of the new capsule is its ability to self-orientate, and its design is based on the leopard tortoise's shell with a high, steep dome to allow it to flip over.

Since the capsule has only one needle, it has to be able to orient itself to deliver the injection. The tip of the needle is made of 100% compressed, freeze-dried insulin. There are no pain receptors in the stomach, so no discomfort is felt during injection. There is no indication of when the capsule might come to the commercial market.