Innovative research is constantly being carried out in the pharma industry so it’s easy to start letting your eyes glide over some of the developments taking place. This week though a lot of eyes have been pulled to a study involving magnetically controlled pills. Many people would rather take drugs orally than via injection, but tablets do not always dissolve at exactly the right site in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract for absorption into the bloodstream. Magnetically-controlled pills, however, enable a tablet to be held in place at the correct site in the GI tract to optimize absorption.
The research, including the harmless operation of the magnetic pill system in rats using conventional gelatine capsules, was described earlier this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by researchers from Brown University in the US.
“With this technology you can now tell where the pill is placed, take some blood samples and know exactly if the pill being in this region really enhances the bioavailability of the medicine in the body,” Edith Mathiowitz, Professor of Medical Science in Brown’s Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology, said in a press statement.
In particular, the researchers envision that the technology could be used as a new drug delivery method for cancer drugs or drugs targeting GI diseases, as there are a number of therapeutics that would benefit from prolonged localization at their site of action or at the site of greatest absorption.
This is not the first time researchers have been attracted to the idea of controlling tablets magnetically, but, according to the press statement, it is the first time that magnetic forces have been controlled sufficiently to make the system safe for use in the body. The system developed by the Brown University researchers senses the position of tablets and holds them there with a minimum of force.
“The most important thing is to be able to monitor the forces that you exert on the pill in order to avoid damage to the surrounding tissue,” said Mathiowitz. “If you apply a little more than necessary force, your pill will be pulled to the external magnet, and this is a problem.”
The research is still in the early preclinical stages, but it’s promising that the researchers have been able to overcome the hurdle of making the system safe for use in the body. According to the statement, even after holding a pill in place for 12 hours in the rats, the system applied a pressure on the intestinal wall that was less than 1/60th of what would be damaging.
The next step will be to use the system to deliver drugs and test their absorption.
“Then it will move to larger animal models and ultimately into the clinic,” Bryan Laulicht, the lead author of the study, explained. “It is my hope that magnetic pill retention will be used to enable oral drug delivery solutions to previously unmet medical needs.”