HEALTH

Injection-only therapies for gut issues soon may become oral medicines

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN JOSE, Calif. New injection-only therapies may be available as oral medicines one day. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, including lead researcher Tejal Desai, are looking at ways to enhance the “oral availability” of drugs by designing new delivery devices that will help their absorption in the gut.

Desai plans to present her research at a meeting of the scientific society AVS here on Nov. 12. Working with a Bay-area biotechnology company, she is making devices that are sort of like spiny beads filled with drugs. The spines on these beads are silicon nanowires designed to form an adhesive interface with the tiny, hair-like cilia that cover the cells lining the gut. They are designed to stick like burrs to the cells lining the gut and slowly release their drugs there. Localized in one spot, the drugs have a better chance of diffusing into the bloodstream.

Of the many characteristic traits a drug can have, one of the most desirable is the ability for a drug to be swallowed and absorbed into the bloodstream through the gut. Some drugs, such as over-the-counter aspirin, lend themselves to this mode of delivery. Other drugs cannot be swallowed and must be administered instead through more complicated routes. Insulin, for instance, must be injected.

The reason why insulin and many other drugs cannot be swallowed is that they cannot survive the trip through the digestive tract — wherein they are first plunged into the acid bath of the stomach and then passed into the intestines, which are filled with enzymes designed to break down such molecules as insulin. Aspirin does fine in the gut because its active ingredient is a small chemical that doesn’t get broken down. Conversely, insulin is quickly degraded.

Desai currently is fine-tuning the geometry of the nanowires in order to optimize their adhesion. Her laboratory has done a number of toxicity studies with the beads, and their plan next is to look at how effectively they can deliver proteins, peptides and other macromolecules that are not usually taken orally.

One of the advantages of this approach, Desai said, is that it may be applicable for delivering drugs to other parts of the body as well, including such mucosal tissues as the insides of the nose, lungs or vagina, where the surface cells also are coated with such cilia.

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Nutrition 21 gains license for ProBiomega

BY Michael Johnsen

PURCHASE, N.Y. Nutrition 21 on Friday announced that the company has obtained an exclusive license for a patented combination of a probiotic and omega-3 fish oil from ProbioHealth and ProbioFerm.

“The probiotic included in the exclusive license, Lactobacillus casei ATCC 3945, has shown enhanced stability when mixed with omega-3 fish oil,” stated James Komorowski, VP R&D at Nutrition 21. “The omega-3 fish oil coats the probiotic and provides a beneficial barrier to air and moisture,” he said. “So not only will consumers obtain the digestive health and heart health benefit from the probiotic and omega-3 fish oil, but the combination also enhances the shelf life of the finished product.”

“This new product, called ProBiomega, is the only product available that combines the benefits of a probiotic and omega-3 fish oil,” added Michael Zeher, Nutrition 21 president and CEO. “We are very excited to enter the fast-growing probiotic market with this unique product formulation.”

KelloggsDRSNhttp://www.centerstoregrowth.com

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GNC appoints new member to board

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH General Nutrition Centers on Friday named Michael Hines, a senior retailing industry executive, to its board of directors. Hines will also sit on the audit committee, serving as chairperson.

Hines was EVP and CFO of Dick’s Sporting Goods from 1995 to March 2007. From 1990 to 1995, he held management positions with Staples, most recently as VP finance.

As of Sept. 30, GNC has more than 6,700 locations, of which more than 5,300 retail locations were in the United States (including 919 franchise and 1,814 Rite Aid franchise store-within-a-store locations) and franchise operations in 47 international markets.

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