MIT: Ultrasound gives GI drugs a quicker delivery with less discomfort

MIT's Robert Langer

Researchers from MIT--including drug delivery maven Robert Langer--and Massachusetts General Hospital have found a quick way to deliver drugs to the gastrointestinal tract using ultrasound, someday improving treatment of disorders there such as inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

Using a mechanism known as transient cavitation that is a result of ultrasound waves traveling through liquid, the technique can enhance absorption in the GI tract, according to a report from MIT. The sound waves create the formation of tiny bubbles that implode, jetting the medication into tissue. The technique has been used to aid delivery through the skin (by the same team of scientists in 1995), but this is the first time its use in the GI tract has been explored.

The main delivery method for these GI disorders remains the same; they are administered via an enema. But instead of requiring a patient to keep the drug in the colon for hours, an ultrasound can help decrease that time dramatically. Because the method can be uncomfortable for such a long time, the technique can help with patient adherence.

"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," MIT's Daniel Blankschtein said in an MIT report. "It demonstrates for the first time the active administration of drugs, including biologics, through the GI tract."

He and Langer have been looking into ultrasound as an active drug delivery method since the 1980s, when it was relegated to the skin.

The team also tested the method in animals, finding that in mice with colitis, ultrasound allowed the drug mesalamine to have an effect, whereas there was no effect when administered without the sound waves. And insulin delivery with sound waves effectively lowered blood sugar levels in pigs.

Langer said in the MIT report: "We've been working on ultrasound as a means to enhance transport through materials and skin since the mid-1980s, and I think the implications of this new approach have the potential to aid many patients."

- here's the MIT report