Super long acting pills could be created with the help of a pH-responsive polymer gel for ultra-long drug delivery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Researchers at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research have created a polymer gel that overcomes the acidic environment of the stomach. This new discovery could allow the development of long-acting devices that reside in the stomach.
In the past, the medical devices designed to reside in the stomach were created with non-degradable elastic polymers that carry a potential risk of intestinal obstruction.
These devices have a number of applications such as prolonged drug delivery, electronic monitoring and weight-loss intervention and are designed to remain in the stomach for a limited time.
The newly discovered polymer is pH-responsive; it means that it can tolerate the harsh acidic stomach environment but dissolves in the near-neutral pH of the small intestine. This gel polymer can be used to create safe devices intended for prolonged residence in the human stomach.
“One of the issues with any device in the GI tract is that there’s the potential for an obstruction, which is a medical emergency potentially requiring surgical intervention,” said Giovanni Traverso, Koch Institute research affiliate and a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“A material like this represents a real advance because it is both safe and stable in the stomach environment.”
The Researchers synthesized an elastic polymer and combined it in a solution with an enteric polymer. Adding hydrochloric acid and centrifuging the solution resulted in a flexible product “polymer gel” that shows both elastic and enteric properties.
The combined enteric and elastic properties of this material could significantly improve the adoption of gastric-resident devices. Medical devices that could integrate this material include bariatric devices, ingestible electronics or extended drug delivery.
“I’m delighted to see these new oral systems provide an opportunity that I’ve not seen previously — enabling patients to swallow a single pill that can then act for whatever length of time is desired,” said Robert Langer, Koch Institute professor.
The single-administration of drugs could improve medication adherence, which remain a major barrier in clinical practice.
According to the World Health Organization, patients’ adherence to long-term treatment for chronic diseases is only 50 percent in developed countries, which is even lower in developing nations.
File photo shows a postdoc holding a ring-shaped device prototype (left), which can be folded into a swallowable capsule (right) for easy and safe oral delivery. – MIT pic