Following the squeeze on pills

25 April 2010


This week researchers in an international team from Switzerland, the Czech Republic and the US have managed to measure the forces felt by a small pill as it travels through the intestines.

Round, biconvex white tabletsBryan Laulicht and colleagues developed a technique using a dummy, magnetic pill. This was fed to both human and dogs and they tracked its progress using an array of magnetic field sensors held over the abdomen. Publishing in PNAs this week, not only could they detect the direction of gastric forces exerted on the pill but also the magnitude of those forces. And they could see how these changed through the stages of digestion.

They found that on a full stomach both humans and dogs exerted similar gastric forces on the pill. But when both volunteers were fasted the dogs' innards exerted, on average, five times the force of the humans'. So we now know that dogs' gastric system is only similar to that of humans after they've been fed.

But this research is important because, in order to make tablets as effective as possible, we need to know how long they can last for inside the gut. For some pills, at least, the longer they last inside you the more effective they are at delivering their medicine. So the researchers hope that by modelling the gut forces in this way they can design much more sophisticated pills than those currently on the market.


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