Many people with diabetes or cancer have to go through painful injections everyday.
Since substances like insulin do not penetrate tissue quickly enough to be effective when taken orally, injections has been the only option to deliver such drugs.
Now, a pill that uses ultrasound to speed up drug delivery could end the need for these painful daily injections.
For years, ultrasound has been used to accelerate the transfer of drugs through skin and can increase drug absorption by a factor of 10.
The method works by heating up molecules inside skin tissue, making cell membranes more permeable. It is particularly good for delivering protein-based drugs such as some cancer medicines, insulin and various vaccinations.
Now, biomedical engineering company, Zetroz, has applied this technique to design their new pill, called uPill.
The uPill will use ultrasound to increase the absorption rate of drugs through tissue in the gastrointestinal tract, said Daniel Anderson at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is part of the team developing the device.
The required drug would be applied as a coating to the uPill and, once swallowed, the device would send ultrasound waves through the patient’s gut to aid absorption. It would then pass through the digestive system, as a camera pill does.
The device was presented at the IdeaStream conference at MIT in May and animal tests are now being carried out to see if the device can pass through the digestive system safely.
The key thing here is the miniaturisation technology we are using to make an already small device a lot smaller, New Scientist quoted George Lewis, co-founder of Zetroz and lead engineer for the uPill, as saying.
Anderson hopes the uPill could hit the market in the next couple of years.
It is far too early to claim victory but we are excited about the potential applications. It could create an entirely new class of drugs, he said.
But the relief won’t come cheap, as each pill will cost 20 dollars to 30 dollars.