Insulin injections are currently one of the most popular diabetes treatment options, particularly for persons with type 1 diabetes who require daily insulin injections to keep their blood sugar levels under control. Researchers have claimed to have invented an implantable intraperitoneal injection device that employs oral insulin as a medicine delivery technique, trying to bring a "space station" into the body.

"This approach may sound a little scary, but it really works," said Arianna Menciassi, a professor of biomedical robotics and bioengineering at the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies (SSSUP) in Italy and a member of the research team.

They have developed an intraperitoneal insulin delivery system that automates the precise delivery of insulin in the body ( The device consists of two parts: the PILLSID (PILl-refiLled implanted System for Intraperitoneal Delivery), an insulin storage and delivery system that is implanted in the body, and a magnetic capsule that carries the insulin. The PILLSID is an implantable robotic device that delivers insulin in conjunction with an oral magnetic capsule, which is operated by an intelligent terminal to perform insulin microinjections to diabetic patients.

The latest experimental results of this device have been published in Science Robotics under the title A fully implanted device for intraperitoneal drug administration recharged by ingestible capsules.

In this experiment, the researchers implanted a PILLSID measuring 78×63×35 mm and weighing 165 grams into the abdomen of diabetic pigs attached to the small intestine, and supplemented the PILLSID by feeding insulin capsules to the pigs and achieved control of blood glucose levels in diabetic pigs, thus verifying the effectiveness of insulin supplementation in an in vivo environment.

Specifically, when a patient takes a magnetic capsule containing insulin, the capsule passes naturally through the digestive system, and as it passes through the small intestine where the PILLSID device is implanted, the PILLSID pulls the capsule toward itself by magnetic suction and allows the capsule to dock in the "agreed" position. The PILLSID body is then pulled towards itself by the magnetic suction effect. At this point, the retractable needle inside the PILLSID body will pierce the capsule to release the insulin it carries.

Once replenishment is complete, the PILLSID magnetic field will be turned off by an externally controlled device and the capsule will continue its digestive journey until it is expelled from the body. The next insulin injection will be done by the device that remains inside the body, as a programmable micro infusion system, the PILLSID will be wirelessly controlled for precise insulin injection within the peritoneum. In addition, charging of the device will also be performed wirelessly.

The researchers believe the system could also be used for drug delivery for other diseases (, such as pancreatic, ovarian, and colorectal cancer.

"During the trial, we discovered that some of the pigs' bodily fluids got inside the implanted gadget," Menciassi commented, "while the gadget has not leaked in earlier water testing, it is far more complex in animals, and even more so in humans." The team will continue to improve the seal of the implanted device.

Researchers have been looking at improved ways to deliver insulin to diabetic patients, and in 2016, the FDA approved the first artificial pancreas, Medtronic's MiniMed670G system, to deliver insulin to the body as an infusion patch via an on-the-go insulin pump. The team's implantable peritoneal drug delivery device is not the first of its kind, while earlier systems needed drug delivery via an extracorporeal catheter.

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