Pill to improve body`s absorption of drugs

Brown University researchers have developed a new magnetic pill system that could improve the body`s absorption of drugs.

A pill often will not dissolve at exactly the right site in the gastrointestinal tract where the medicine can be absorbed into the bloodstream but the new pill could solve that problem.

"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," said Edith Mathiowitz.

"It`s a completely new way to design a drug delivery system."

The two main components are conventional-looking gelatin capsules that contain a tiny magnet, and an external magnet that can precisely sense the force between it and the pill and vary that force, as needed, to hold the pill in place.

The system is the first one in which scientists can control the forces on a pill so that it`s safe to use in the body.

"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. If you apply a little more than necessary force, your pill will be pulled to the external magnet, and this is a problem," said Mathiowitz.

"The greatest challenges were quantifying the required force range for maintaining a magnetic pill in the small intestines and constructing a device that could maintain intermagnetic forces within that range," former graduate student Bryan Laulicht.

This time, the system applied a pressure on the intestinal wall that was less than 1/60th of what would be damaging.

The next step in the research is to begin delivering drugs using the system and testing their absorption, Mathiowitz and Laulicht said.

"Then it will move to larger animal models and ultimately into the clinic. It is my hope that magnetic pill retention will be used to enable oral drug delivery solutions to previously unmet medical needs," said Laulicht.

The study appears online the week of Jan. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .