The Ingestible Needle

Many people are uncomfortable when they are near needles. Scientists are currently working on a device that has the same function as getting a shot, but instead of piercing the skin, it is consumed and pricks the inside of the stomach to administer the drug it is carrying.

Scientists have already developed a prototype of the device that administers insulin. But this type of device might also be used for treating issues with cancer or hormones.

These ingestible devices are the size of a pea and have the shape of an acorn. The “nut” shell is made out of polyester, and the cap is stainless steel. The design of the device is intended to make it rest at the bottom of the stomach with the stainless cap down. While sitting at the bottom of the stomach, the pill sticks a needle tip into the mucous membrane that lines the stomach. This needle tip is made almost entirely out of insulin. As the tip dissolves, the device goes through the rest of the bodies digestive system.

Due to the way pain receptors are spread inside the stomach, the injection causes almost no discomfort to the patient. Experiments done on pigs showed that the ingestible devices delivered practically the same amount of insulin to the bloodstream as injections did. After one week, the scientists examined the stomach lining of the pigs, and they found no signs of damage.

While the design of these pills is promising, there are still questions that need to be answered. One question is whether the pills have any long-term consequences on the digestive system, especially when looking at people that have diseases like diabetes and therefore inject themselves throughout their lifetime. Fortunately, scientists say they are already conducting experiments that might determine whether this form of treatment has any chronic effects.


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