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Novel capsules that release drugs when a shock wave is applied tested on mice

Researchers have successfully tested a drug delivery system in mice that can be controlled remotely with micro-shock waves. This innovative system carries medicine in tiny capsules, and delivers them when hit by a micro-shock wave. Micro-shock waves are produced during a sudden release of energy in a confined area. A team of aerospace engineers and cell biologists at the Indian Institute of Science have developed the system.

We are familiar with the injection, a common technique to administer drugs to the human body. However, injections can be fatal if proper care is not taken by the medics. Contaminated injections can lead to disability, transmit HIV and hepatitis B, and sometimes, even cause death. As Dipshikha Chakravortty, a biologist involved in the study, says “each year, 1.3 million early deaths are caused by unsafe injections, and remotely triggered delivery systems could be used as an alternative to address some of these issues”.

Researchers packed insulin in extremely small capsules and kept them at the site of infections in diabetic mice. The capsules are so small that you could place ten of the biggest capsules in a span of one millimeter length. Once hit by a micro-shock wave, the capsules spill out a tiny amount of drug that they are carrying in their belly. This way, drugs can be delivered in a controlled manner as and when required. Scientists also noted a drop in blood glucose levels in the test mice an hour after insulin was delivered.

There are drug delivery systems that respond to various stimuli. Injections, for example, respond to change in pressure in the tank that stores the drug. There are other systems that can be triggered by temperature, light, ultrasound etc. But, this is the first time a drug delivery system has been developed to be triggered by a micro-shock wave. The whole system, along with the shock wave generator, fits into a box that is less than one foot long.

Shock waves are more common in aviation than in healthcare. When an aeroplane or a spacecraft goes faster than sound, a shock is formed. A shock is a thin region with extreme variations in temperature and pressure. But, micro-shocks are different. “Micro-shock waves are not as energetic as the shocks encountered in high speed flight. The waves we create last a millionth of a second, and affect a small area. They simply don’t have enough energy to affect the living cells in the body”, said Jagadeesh Gopalan, who participated in the study.

Apart from the technological novelty, the system has other advantages too. Since the drug is released in a controlled manner, this system can potentially reduce the number of injections taken by patients. According to Dipshikha Chakravortty, “such remotely triggering drug delivery system could increase patient compliance. It would be of great advantage in case of mentally disabled patients and children”.

About the authors:

The study is a collaborative effort. Dipshikha Chakravortty is an Associate Professor with the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Jagadeesh Gopalan is a Professor at the Department of Aerospace Engineering. Divya Prakash Gnanadhas, Monalisha Elango and Midhun Ben Thomas are joint students.

Contact: Dipshikha Chakravortty

Web:; Tel: +91-80-22932842

The paper appeared in the journal RSC Advances during January . DOI: 10.1039/c4ra15270k