Pea-Sized Pill Delivers Insulin “Like a Miniature Rocket Launcher”

The insulin is absorbed in the stomach.

A new pea-sized pill could inject insulin into the body from inside of the stomach. (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

Scientists have developed a tiny gadget that you can swallow to administer an insulin shot.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology-led team create the pea-sized pill that holds the shot and could be used to administer a variety of medications through the stomach, the AP reports.

“The way this works is it travels down the esophagus in seconds, it’s in the stomach within a few minutes, and then you get the drug,” said Dr. Giovanni Traverso, the study’s senior author who worked with a team from MIT and insulin maker Novo Nordisk.

“It’s like a miniaturized rocket launcher” for insulin, Willem Mulder of Mount Sinai’s Translational and Molecular Imaging Institute, who was not involved in the new research, said.

To make sure that, once the pill was in the stomach, it would sit in the correct position to administer the shot. The team looked to a African leopard tortoise, who can flip itself over if stuck on it’s back, for design inspiration.  As a result, they weighted the bottom of the pill so it would automatically roll into the proper position to latch on.

Once the pill injects the insulin the patient it leaves the body when the person defecates.

“It’s a very clever idea, that is meant to solve a very long-standing problem,” University of Pittsburgh chemical engineering chairman Steven Little said.

One problem scientist still face before bringing tiny injector to the masses: it currently works best on an empty stomach, but they’re still working on it.

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