Robotics in healthcare is becoming a norm, and a new drug-delivery system called RoboCap is the latest addition to the field.
What is robotics?
Robotics in healthcare is a branch of engineering that uses technologies and nanotechnologies like machinery and artificial intelligence to support and improve human capabilities. Some of these advancing areas of robotics allow for seeing and sensing within the body at a microscopic level. Other aspects of the technology involve precision medicine – an advancement in healthcare that helps to bypass natural challenges the body may produce against treatments.
Why is robotics important?
A typical treatment issue in healthcare is drug delivery and bioavailability. The bioavailability of a drug measures how well the body can absorb the medicine.1 Drug delivery and bioavailability are a challenge as certain medicines need to be dispersed throughout the body in a way that can only be done by mouth (orally). Also, a medicine may need to be given by a healthcare practitioner (HCP) by a needle.
When a drug is ingested orally, it must go through “first-pass metabolism”. Unfortunately, first-pass metabolism can reduce the ability of the medicine to get to where it needs to go in the right amount and at the right time.
Therefore, robotics in healthcare can help ensure successful treatments while reducing the risks of taking medicines by mouth. Additionally, a technology that reduces the need for a HCP to give the medicine can help improve a patient’s ability to take their medications and free up HCPs for other urgent needs.
What is RoboCap?
The stomach lining has sticky mucus that can trap drug particles and prevent them from entering the bloodstream.2 Part of RoboCap’s inventiveness is its ability to clear this mucus and deposit medications where they need to take action.2
RoboCap is a new robotics technology capsule that helps deliver on-target oral medications. RoboCap also protects the drug from being broken down too much or too quickly. The capsule includes a motor and a cargo that holds medicines that would typically need to be taken by intravenous (IV) infusion or injection.2,3
Before RoboCap’s introduction, other attempts at developing technology for oral drug delivery were unsuccessful.1 Not only can this new robotic capsule safely deliver, but it also improves bioavailability.1
How does it work?
Once RoboCap is in the intestine, a motor allows it to spin, and its studded surface contacts the intestinal tissue.1 The capsule rotates to clear away mucus and gradually deposits the medication.1 After spinning around for about 35 minutes, the capsule will make its way to naturally exit the body.2
Where’s the proof?
Medications including vancomycin (antibiotic) and insulin were given to pigs using RoboCap.1 Vancomycin was taken up by tissues twenty times higher in the pigs given the RoboCap versus those who didn’t.1 Additionally, vancomycin and insulin levels in the body were found to increase 20-40 times higher than standard oral medications.3
Further research and testing using RoboCap for the delivery of other medications are needed to improve medication dosing, adherence, and safety. RoboCap’s success could also mean cost-savings and improvement of resources in healthcare. Robotics in healthcare provides hope for patients and for practitioners. RoboCap can provide an easier, more comfortable, and more convenient way for patients to take their medication(s).
- Whelan S. RoboCap – The robotic capsule designed to improve drug delivery in the Gut. Published Sept 28, 2022. Accessed November 17, 2022. https://www.technologynetworks.com/drug-discovery/news/robocap-the-robotic-capsule-designed-to-improve-drug-delivery-in-the-gut-366073
- Rosen M. This Robotic Pill Clears Mucus from the Gut to Deliver Meds. Published Sept 28, 2022. Accessed November 16, 2022. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/robotic-pill-mucus-gut-deliver-medicine
- Srinivasan SS, Alshareef A, Hwang AV, Kang Z, Kuosmanen J, Ishida K, Jenkins J, Liu S, Madani WAM, Lennerz J, Hayward A. RoboCap: Robotic mucus-clearing capsule for enhanced drug delivery in the gastrointestinal tract. Science Robotics. 2022;7(70). doi: 10.1126/scirobotics.abp9066