A team of researchers has successfully used ultrasound waves to speed up drug delivery to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The study was conducted by researchers from MIT and the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and the resulting technique could significantly improve improve treatment for inflammatory GI diseases.
We've seen ultrasound used to improve drug efficiency before. A few years ago, MIT conducted a study found that ultrasound waves can be used to painlessly prep the skin for drug delivery, providing a potential alternative to injections. The new study is similar to the older research, but looks to utilize the effects of ultrasound waves in the GI tract rather than on the skin.
When treating inflammatory GI diseases, medicines are routinely administered by means of an enema, but this can be problematic for patients suffering from incontinence or diarrhoea. Speeding up how long how long it takes for drugs to get into the patient's system will significantly improve treatment.
To achieve that goal, the researchers used low-frequency ultrasound waves to trigger a mechanism known as transient cavitation. The waves cause fluid to form minuscule bubbles that implode to create microjets that help penetrate tissue, pushing the medication into the patient's system. The effectiveness of the method was tested on a pig GI tract, with the researchers finding that it significantly increased absorption of both large and small proteins (insulin and mesalamine).
"With additional research, our technology could prove invaluable in both clinical and research settings, enabling improved therapies and expansion of research techniques applied to the GI tract," says senior author Daniel Blankschtein.
While the initial research focused on using ultrasound to improve drug delivery for inflammatory GI diseases, it could also prove helpful for treating other conditions, such as infections or colon cancer. The team is currently working on additional animal studies, while also prepping the technique for testing on humans.
The researchers published the findings of their study in the journal Science Translational Medicine. For more on the study, you can check out the video below.
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