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Most people have an aversion to needles, and for good reason—they cause pain and are usually associated with unpleasant experiences, not to mention the regular use of them leads to a significant amount of biohazardous waste. For the over 30 million Americans who have diabetes, however, the use of needles for insulin delivery is unavoidable or at least imminent. But this might not be the case for long.

Alex Abramson is a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering at MIT, and for the past four years, he’s been working on the development of a new pill for the oral delivery of insulin and other biologics. Inspired by the shape and density distribution of self-righting tortoises, the pill is designed to self-orient toward the stomach wall, sense the humidity in the stomach’s environment, and release a drug-loaded post directly into the stomach tissue with the use of a needle no larger than one millimeter in diameter.

Funded by a pharmaceutical company by the name of Novo Nordisk, the project has already been published and is generating a ton of excitement. With numerous studies showing efficacy in large animal models, Abramson is hoping to bring the device into human clinical trials within the next two years. On today’s podcast, Abramson explains the ins and outs of the mechanism behind the pill, how he came up with this idea, the potential it holds, and one of his primary concerns.

Check out the link below to watch a video depicting how exactly the pill works, and press play to hear the full conversation.

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