A robotic pill that absorbs mucus could pave the way for a new way of taking medicine. The vitamin capsule-sized device carries an engine and cargo bay. There, the most varied medications can be stored – including those administered by injection or intravenously, such as insulin and antibiotics.
O MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) presented the prototype, which earned the nickname RoboCap, in magazine ScienceRoboticson Wednesday (28).
According to the study, the robotic pill can “escape” important agents in the body, such as stomach acid and digestive enzymes, for example. In many cases, stomach mucus can trap drug particles, preventing them from entering the bloodstream and having 100% absorption.
With that in mind, RoboCap uses the grooves on its surface to “scrub” intestinal mucus. It’s like a miniature sponge spinning inside a bottle.
In the pig experiments, the pill tunneled through the mucus that lines the walls of the small intestine – where some drugs are more easily absorbed.
After “rubbing” for 35 minutes, the RoboCap deposited insulin on the spot. The prototype managed to do the same with the antibiotic vancomycin. Then the pill continued its journey through the intestines until it left the body.
The device is innovative because it can become a way out to avoid daily injections or hospital stays. “It would be a big game changer,” said Shriya Srinivasan, a biomedical engineer at MIT and author of the study, to the website ScienceNews.
According to Srinivasan, RoboCap can also deliver larger drug loads. The MIT team had already developed a similar pill in 2019, the size of a pea, but lacking the ability to work in the small intestine.