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"Insul-in" -- The Discovery Files

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An MIT-led research team has developed a drug capsule -- about the size of a blueberry -- that could be used to deliver oral doses of insulin, potentially replacing the injections that people with Type 1 diabetes have to give themselves every day. In tests in animals, the researchers showed that they could deliver enough insulin to lower blood sugar to levels comparable to those produced by injections given through skin.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Taking a shot.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

Here's a new development from a team led by MIT that could become welcome news to the 415 million people worldwide who have diabetes and to control blood glucose levels must inject insulin multiple times a day. It's a capsule that when swallowed, painlessly injects insulin into the lining of the stomach. About the size of a blueberry, the capsule contains a small needle made of compressed, freeze-dried insulin.

When the capsule is swallowed, it'll settle needle-side down against the stomach wall every time thanks to a design inspired by nature, that of the self-righting leopard tortoise. Wide on the bottom and pointed at the top this little guy never gets stuck upside down.

There is a spring in the capsule, held in place by a disk of sugar. (Sound effect: stomach sounds) The stomach dissolves the disk, the spring releases and (Sound effect: cartoon spring release "boing"), insulin injected. Tests showed the device could deliver an amount of insulin comparable to a regular skin injection. After the capsule has done its work, it safely passes out through the body.

The researchers hope to take the concept beyond insulin delivery to other therapies that require injections. Let's see, take a pill or get a shot. No contest. Let's call this taking a shot.

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