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Taking Medications by Swallowing Robots: Scientists have designed small robotic capsules for effective oral drug delivery and absorption.

In today’s medical treatment, injection is one of the most common practices for delivering many drugs, such as insulin. Because it can be painful and may require professional practitioners, doctors often seek alternatives, such as oral medication. A challenge with oral medication is that digestion in the stomach reduces many drugs’ availability for absorption in the intestine. To solve this problem, a team from MIT recently designed a small robotic capsule, named RoboCap, that can be taken orally and release insulin directly into the intestine.

How does this robot work?

RoboCap looks like any other pill. It’s a capsule with helical grooves on it. It contains a drug-storage chamber, a rotor, and a gelatin membrane for protection. The pill remains intact until it reaches the intestine, where the environmental pH triggers the rotor to spin and gently clear off the mucus lining the intestine. Finally, the drug is released into the intestine, and the remaining capsule is excreted.

Why is it effective?

The team tested insulin delivery with RoboCap in pigs. Their findings showed a significant increase in insulin absorption compared to regular capsules, mainly because the capsule protects insulin from digestion in the stomach, while the rotor’s sweeping away of mucus enhances drug absorption. With its effectiveness and convenience, RoboCap may become a promising way for taking drugs with low oral availability.  Further testing and clinical trials are needed to help the world understand and improve this fascinating tool.

Interested in watching how RoboCap functions?  Here’s the research:

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