WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are developing an oral contraceptive that only has to be taken once a month.
This kind of monthly contraceptive could have a significant impact on the health of women, especially in the developing world, in the future, said the study published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
MIT researchers designed a gelatin-coated capsule that carry three weeks' worth of a contraceptive drug. The capsule can release, once reaching the stomach, a star-shaped delivery system with six folded arms, and those arms can expand, lodged in the stomach and slowly release their payload, according to the study.
The delivery system is made of polymers called polyurethane, which can resist acid gastric fluids. The researchers loaded contraceptive drug levonorgestrel into its six arms, and controlled the rate at which it is released by changing the concentration of the polymers that mix with the drug.
Tests in pigs showed that this kind of drug release can achieve the same concentration of the drug in the bloodstream as taking a daily dose and maintained the drug levels for up to four weeks, according to the study.
For use in humans, the capsule would be designed to break down after three or four weeks and exit the body through the digestive tract. The researchers are working on several possible ways to trigger the arms to break off.
Giovanni Traverso, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, said the human tests could be possible within three to five years.
"We aim to transform people's experience with taking medications by making it easier, with more infrequent dosing in the first once-a-month, orally delivered drug system," said Traverso.