Many people around the world, especially those in developing countries, don’t take their medications as prescribed. This causes numerous avoidable hospital stays every year. This is why researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a new set of drug delivery materials to help ensure that the patients receive their full course of treatment. This new drug delivery materials can reside in the patient’s stomach for up to 9 days and slowly releases the right dosage of medication.
These materials are known as triggerable tough hydrogels (TTH). According to Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and one of the paper’s senior co-authors “One of the biggest issues in health care is noncompliance, people simply not taking their drugs. We have been working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop ultra-long-lasting capsules, which might last for the entire course of a treatment, or could be taken once a week or once a month, depending on the device.”
When the researchers tested the mechanical strength of the materials, they found that the materials were robust enough to resist fractures even under pressure from a razor blade. The researchers then tested devices that are built from the materials in large animal models. According to the paper’s lead author, Jinyao Liu, an MIT postdoc, they found out that the materials were able to withstand the forces within the stomach for more than seven days.
As a final test, they checked the device’s potential as a drug delivery system by loading it with antimalarial lumefantrine.They chose this drug because nonadherence to medication is a problem in treating cases of malaria in developing countries.
The result was that the device was able to release the lumefantrine in a controlled manner over a period of days.
According to Eric Appel, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford University, who was not involved in the research, “These materials have exceptional properties that make them capable of withstanding the stresses encountered within the gastrointestinal tract, leading the way to hydrogel systems that can be exploited as long-lasting oral drug delivery vehicles. The ability of these devices to deliver drugs for several days in a large animal is remarkable.”
The researchers are now currently working on the rate of drug release from the capsules and to investigate other applications for this materials like weight loss intervention and tissue engineering.