Parasite-inspired devices for efficient gastrointestinal drug delivery

Scientists from John Hopkins University have designed a microdevice that latches onto gastrointestinal (GI) tissue and releases drugs slowly into the body mimicking extended-release drugs. These devices called 'theragrippers' were inspired by a parasitic worm that sinks its teeth into its hosts' intestines.

The star-shaped theragrippers are heat sensitive and change shape upon reaching internal body temperature which causes them to remain attached to the intestine where they can gradually release the drugs that they carry. The team reported that the theragrippers can reside within the GI tract of live animals for 24 hours. Furthermore, there was up to a 6-fold increase in the elimination half-life when compared to the standard drug in a pain medication model using ketorolac.

Why it matters: The gastrointestinal tract is a challenging drug administration site due to intrinsic GI motility which often means the drug has passed through the entire tract before they have finished dispensing the full dose of medication. The design of these new devices are a promising solution that could enhance the efficacy of extended drug delivery and therefore improve consequent patient adherence.

Source: Science Advances