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Tuscan scientists made a biorobot that fights diabetes

Tuscan scientists made a biorobot that fights diabetes

The device is the first in the world with such characteristics and will greatly improve the quality of life for diabetic patients

An implantable robotic system will be able to deliver insulin dosages to diabetic patients internally thanks to work done by scientists and researchers in Pisa (Italy). The invention is the first of its kind in the world and is a product of a collaboration between the Biorobotics Institute of the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, the medical departments of the University of Pisa and the Pisan University Hospital (AOU). The regional government of Tuscany provided grant funding for the project.

Almost like a sci-fi movie script

The new device will be an alternative to the strategies currently used for blood glucose control, based on repeated subcutaneous injections or on wearable infusers. It will make the use of access ports, catheters, needles and syringes a thing of the past, and potentially ease the chronic sufferings of millions of patients.

The device consists of two parts. The first is an implantable system, which will be interfaced with the intestine and will act as an insulin pump. The second element is swallowable capsules which will replenish the reserves of insulin in the system.

“We have developed capsules for gastrointestinal monitoring and magnetic systems for remote drives in surgery. As part of a PhD school work, the idea was born to think of the capsules as shuttles that could supply artificial internal organs, so as to treat chronic diseases of extreme importance,” explained Arianna Menciassi, Deputy Rector of the Biorobotics Institute.

The device has been named PILLSID (PILl-refiLled implanted System for Intraperitoneal Delivery) and has currently been validated at the preclinical level. The way the process unfolds inside the body may seem like something that until recently was thought only possible in movies.

The capsules, ingested normally, pass through the intestinal tract to a "docking" area in a loop of the intestine. The implant has a magnetic mechanism that activates to capture the capsule, draw the insulin and fill the reservoir. At this point, the magnet is deactivated and the empty capsule resumes its path until normal ejection.

The researchers working on the project are extremely satisfied with the initial results and commented that they expect the robotic system to reach full clinical application in people in the very near future.

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