Medicine delivered with microcapsules
‘Oral drug delivery’—i.e. medication in pill form—does not work when it comes to diabetes patients, for example. DTU researchers have come up with a proposal for solving the problem.
At the basic research centre IDUN (Center for Intelligent Drug Delivery and Sensing Using Microcontainers and Nanomechanics) headed by Professor Anja Boisen, scientists are developing a new type of pill that will enable more intelligent and effective use of medicine.
Getting medicine into the body in the right way, to the right places, and in the right quantities can be something of a challenge. If you have diabetes and require insulin, it would be an advantage if you could simply swallow it in pill form instead of having to inject yourself. However, insulin is not absorbed by the body when taken in ordinary pill form, which is why researchers at DTU have developed polymer microcapsules to address this problem.
The prototype of the new pill contains hundreds of microcapsules with micro quantities of medicine. When the patient swallows the pill, the gelatin exterior dissolves as it passes through the stomach, allowing the nanoscale medicine capsules to flow out into the intestine where they adhere—delivering medicine directly through the intestinal wall, where it can be absorbed by the body.
In this way, the medicine is delivered directly into the body with maximum efficacy—and in much smaller quantities than would otherwise be required.
Gelatin encapsulates medicine
The pill consists of an outer sheath similar to the kind we know from medicinal products with an unpleasant taste and which therefore need to be enclosed. The sheath consists primarily of gelatin, which is dissolved in the stomach or intestine. Gelatin is a thickener made from animal proteins.
Medicine in microcapsules
Inside the gelatin sheath are hundreds of microcapsules, each smaller than a grain of sand. Thus, hundreds of microcapsules can sit on the tip of a finger. It is inside the small capsules that the medicine is found.
Smaller than a sugar crystal
Here, the microcapsules are compared to sugar crystals from the sugar bowl. The individual capsule is only a fraction of the size of sugar crystals.
The microcapsules can be compared to micro-sized Toffifee chocolates small enough to be swallowed whole. The desired medicine (the hazelnut centre) is placed in small containers (the toffee coating). The medicine is then covered with a layer (chocolate), which protects it on its way through the mouth, oesophagus, and stomach, right up until it reaches the intestine, where it is absorbed by the body. The manufacture of microcapsules is done using nanomechanics on gold plates with 625 microcapsules on each plate.
source: Technical University of Denmark