Health Care

Micromotors successfully deliver drugs to treat stomach bacterial infections

Micromotors successfully deliver drugs to treat stomach bacterial infections”

Drugs used to treat bacterial infections, ulcers and other diseases in the stomach are normally taken with additional substances, called proton pump inhibitors, to suppress gastric acid production.

"It's a one-step treatment with these micromotors, combining acid neutralization with therapeutic action", said Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila, a co-author of the paper, published in Nature.

As of now insulin is injected rather than administered orally as the acids in the stomach break down the hormone before it can reach the liver. They come with a long list of nasty side effects, including headaches, diarrhea, and fatigue.

The micromotors offer a possible solution to this problem as they have a built-in mechanism to neutralize gastric acid and effectively deliver the drugs without the use of proton pump inhibitors. The magnesium reacts with gastric acid, producing bubbles which propel the robot forward.

"The movement itself improves the retention of antibiotics on the stomach lining where the bacteria are concentrated", researcher Joseph Wang told New Scientist.

If this sounds like fodder for an ill-conceived sci-fi blockbuster - tiny robots mutinying in the human stomach - it shouldn't; stomach acid in the mice returned to normal levels after a paltry 24 hours, with the micromotors dissolving in gastric acid once they became obsolete.

The swimming micromotors are then able to stick to the wall with an outer layer made of a positively-charged polymer called chitosan. This reaction also minimises the level of gastric acid in the stomach, allowing the antibiotics to operate without being corrupted or destroyed by acidity. The micromotors - packed with a clinical dose of the antibiotic clarithromycin - were administered orally once a day for five consecutive days.

Results showed treatment with the micromotors was slightly more effective than the equivalent dose of antibiotic given in combination with proton pump inhibitors.

Each machine consists of a round magnesium core protected by a layer of titanium dioxide.

It's still early stages but the researchers have already started planning future trials to delve deeper into the possibilities of this nanotechnology.

To eliminate the need to use the acid-neutralizing drugs, the UCSD researchers created molecular machines - each about half the width of a human hair - that could protect antiobiotics until the devices could temporarily change the stomach's chemistry into a more hospitable environment in which the drugs could work. "T$3 his work opens the door to the use of synthetic motors as an active-delivery platform for in vivo treatment of diseases, and will likely trigger intensive research interests in this area", the study authors write.

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