By Anne Trafton
One reason that it’s so difficult to deliver large protein drugs orally is that these drugs can’t pass through the mucus barrier that lines the digestive tract. This means that insulin and most other “biologic drugs” — drugs consisting of proteins or nucleic acids — have to be injected or administered in a hospital.
A new drug capsule developed at MIT may one day be able to replace those injections. The capsule has a robotic cap that spins and tunnels through the mucus barrier when it reaches the small intestine, allowing drugs carried by the capsule to pass into cells lining the intestine.
“By displacing the mucus, we can maximize the dispersion of the drug within a local area and enhance the absorption of both small molecules and macromolecules,” says Giovanni Traverso, the Karl van Tassel Career Development Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT and a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.