Pill attaches to GI tract lining for slow release

By Melissa Fassbender contact

- Last updated on GMT

Researchers have created a dual-sided pill that attaches to the gastrointestinal tract. (Illustration: Christine Daniloff/MIT)
Researchers have created a dual-sided pill that attaches to the gastrointestinal tract. (Illustration: Christine Daniloff/MIT)

Related tags: Pharmacology

Researchers have developed a new tablet that attaches to the lining of the GI tract and slowly releases medication.

According to the researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital, the new extended-release pills could be used to reduce the dosage frequency of some drugs.

We aimed to develop a system that had the capacity to reside in the gastrointestinal tract for prolonged periods of time​,” Gio Traverso told us. “We anticipate these systems will have the capacity to reside in specific locations for longer periods of time thereby allowing drugs to diffuse from the system into the tissue without being dislodged​.”

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, explained that one of the challenges early on was the passage of food material and its interaction with the tablet.

Recognizing the spectrum of materials in the human diet, we searched for potential solutions which would repel a broad set of materials, and therefore coupled an adhesive layer to an omniphobic layer​,” he said.

The adhesive side of the dual-sided device, also known as a Janus device after the two-faced Roman god, is made from a commercially available polymer, Carbopol. Its counterpart consists of cellulose acetate textured with micro and nanoscale protrusions that make it hydrophobic. The surface is also fluorinated and lubricated so it can repel materials.

The researchers then used a pill presser to combine the polymers into tablets, which can be formed into several shape and sizes, with medication either embedded within the cellulose acetate layer or placed between the two layers.

These systems can interface with many drugs and offer the potential to control the transit time of a dosage form through the gastrointestinal tract for extension of drug release but also to address safety concerns with certain dosage forms​,” explained Traverso.

The researchers are planning to commercialize the pill, and are interested in exploring partnerships with industry partners.

Further tests will also be done to see how long the tablets can satay attached, the rate at which drugs are released from the material, and the ability to target the material to specific sections of the GI tract.

According to the researchers, a tablet with omniphobic coatings on both sides may also be pursued which they believe could help patients who have trouble swallowing pills.

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