Scientists develop microdevice for drug delivery into GI tract

Scientists develop microdevice for drug delivery into GI tract

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University created a new intestinal parasite-inspired microdevice that can latch itself into mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract and deliver drugs gradually over time.

The device named “theragripper,” is equipped with a drug-loaded polymer patch. The device is designed to change shape inside the body and hook onto the GI tract, which puts the tiny patches in place to release their drug payload, scientists said.

The theragrippers are built from metal thin films, armed with sharp “microtips” and capped with a heat-sensitive wax layer. Once they reach internal body temperature, the wax layer softens, causing the device to fold. The resultant force pushes the microtips into the mucous membranes, where the drug begins to release.

The team showed that the device could stick around within the colon of the rat models for over a full day, leading to extended drug exposure over a longer period of time.The team had used the anti-inflammatory drug ketorolac for the study.

The study showed that standard ketorolac’s plasma concentration dropped by 10 times within the first three hours after administration, whereas the theragripper-delivered drug saw a similar decrease in plasma concentration at hour eight. The theragripper drug also boasted sustained exposure between eight and 18 hours and an almost twofold increase in overall exposure compared with the standard drug.

The team administered the devices via rectum because that route is preferred for paediatric patients and for localized therapies for diseases like ulcerative colitis. No short-term tissue damage or inflammation was noted, the team said.

Moving up the GI tract, the team showed its devices could attach to samples of pig stomach and oesophagus for more than 24 hours.

While the research is still in its early stages, the team hopes its device could develop to provide safe drug delivery to the GI tract. The study is published in the journal Science Advances.