Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new drug capsule that can be used to deliver drugs on a long-term basis once swallowed. This type of drug delivery eliminates inconvenient and frequent doses and has the potential to overcome obstacles in the fight against malaria and other illnesses requiring long-term medication.
Drugs taken orally tend to work for a limited time because they rapidly pass through the body and usually require daily intake, which can be challenging. “If the medicine could be effective for a long period of time, you could radically improve the efficacy of your mass drug administration campaigns,” says Andrew Bellinger, one of the lead researchers.
Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The National Institute of Health and the Max Planck Research Award, the team designed a star-shaped capsule that is strong enough to survive the harsh environment of the stomach, but not large enough to cause a blockage in the digestive tract.
Six arms are attached to a rubber-like core, folded inwards and encased in a smooth capsule that is designed to eventually break down once the drug is swallowed. Once ingested, the capsule remains in the stomach for up to two weeks, gradually releasing the drugs.
Senior researcher, Robert Langer has been working on this long-term drug delivery system for years with an initial focus on malaria and ivermectin, a drug that kills any mosquito that bites a person taking the drug. This invention has the potential to greatly reduce the transmission of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.
The researchers are now working on developing similar capsules for other diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis. “This can be used with any drug that requires frequent dosing. We can replace that dosing with a single administration,” added MIT researcher Mousa Jafari.