Researchers have developed a mouth patch inspired by the tentacles of an octopus that has the potential to revolutionize drug delivery. The patch, made from a food-grade plastic material, features a dome-shaped top and a stretchy disk that attaches to the inside lining of the cheek. Its design is based on the suction cups found on an octopus’s tentacles.
The goal of this innovative technology is to provide an alternative to injections for delivering peptides and proteins, which are typically administered through injections due to their large molecular size. Peptides and proteins are essential components of medications like insulin and semaglutide. Non-invasive delivery methods are preferred because they are more convenient and comfortable for patients, especially children.
The mouth patch was inspired by the researchers’ observation that certain foods, like Sichuan peppercorns and popcorn, have a tendency to get stuck to the inside of the mouth and throat. By mimicking the suction-cup shape of these foods, the researchers aimed to create a mechanism for delivering peptides and proteins orally.
Initial tests of the mouth patch in dogs showed promising results, with the patch remaining attached to the inside of the mouth for three hours without causing any adverse reactions. A small human trial was also conducted, where the patch was tested for 30 minutes by 40 healthy volunteers. The majority of the patches remained attached, and the volunteers expressed a preference for this potential method of drug delivery compared to injections.
While the research is promising, there are still challenges to overcome. Long-term safety studies have not yet been conducted, and practical challenges such as eating while using the patch and ensuring it stays in place during activity need to be addressed.
Nevertheless, this octopus-inspired mouth patch holds great potential as a non-invasive and convenient method of delivering peptides and proteins. Nature continues to inspire medical advancements, and learning from the natural world can provide valuable insights and innovative ideas.
Source: Science Translational Medicine, Boston University