Rethinking Healthcare

Swallowable ultrasound device could replace daily injections

Swallowable ultrasound device could replace daily injections

Posting in Cancer

No more needles? Now, daily injections of insulin or cancer drugs could be replaced by uPill, which uses ultrasound waves to heat up gut tissue, accelerating the drug's absorption.

For many people with diabetes or cancer, daily injections are a painful fact of life. Substances like insulin and protein-based cancer drugs don’t penetrate tissue quickly enough to be effective when taken orally.

Now, biomedical engineering company ZetrOZ has developed a swallowable ultrasound device called uPill to remove that need for needles. New Scientist reports.

But ultrasound has been used for years to accelerate the transfer of drugs through the skin, increasing drug absorption by a factor of 10. It works by heating up the molecules inside skin tissue.

Now that same method takes on a pill form. The uPill uses ultrasound to increase the absorption rate of drugs through tissue in the gastrointestinal tract, according to MIT’s Daniel Anderson, part of the team developing the device.

  1. The drug is applied as a coating to the uPill.
  2. After it’s swallowed, the device sends ultrasound waves through the patient’s gut tissue, aiding absorption through the stomach.
  3. Then the device should pass through the digestive system (coming out the way a tiny camera would).

"We are developing the smallest ultrasound system in the world,” says George Lewis of ZetrOZ, which has previously developed an ultrasound patch to deliver drugs through the skin.

Each pill would cost between $20 and $30 and could hit the market in the next couple years. Animal tests are now being carried out to see if the device can pass through the digestive system safely.

The device was presented at the IdeaStream conference at MIT last month.

[Via New Scientist]

Image: ZetrOZ

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure