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Meta-pill delivers multiple drugs at once

Multiple-compartment pill out of Georgia Institute of Technology could deliver different drugs simultaneously to better treat diseases like cancer.

The capsule can hold hydrophilic (or dissolvable) drugs in its multiple compartments, while polymer chains trapped inside can better deliver hydrophobic (think oil in water) drugs at the same time. Georgia Institute of Technology

New technology out of Georgia Tech may reduce the number of pills people with multiple prescriptions need to take every day--or that Ray Kurzweil takes to try and live long enough to become immortal. That's because researchers have developed a new gelcap with multiple compartments that can be used to take different drugs at the same time.

Right now the hydrogel capsules are very tiny--just one micron across--and no one's actually tried to fill one with medication yet. But the researchers say a meta-pill could have significant advantages, like being able to suppress resistance to certain drugs by co-mingling them with medications that counter adverse effects. The one-shot capsules could also afford more precise control over dosages, and, of course, could mean less time spent organizing pills.

What's cool about the multi-compartment pills is that they can deliver two very different kind of drugs at the same time--those that can dissolve in water, and those that are hydrophobic, or generally repelled by water (think of how cooking oil refuses to mix with water). This is done by inserting microscopic polymer chains in the pill. The hydrophobic drugs are trapped within nanoparticles assembled from the polymer chains.

"We have demonstrated that we can make a fairly complex multi-component delivery vehicle using a relatively straightforward and scalable synthesis," L. Andrew Lyon, a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech, said in a statement. "Additional research will need to be conducted to determine how they would best be loaded, delivered and triggered to release the drugs."

Treatment of diseases like cancer are among the possible uses for the multi-compartment pills--cancer is often treated using combination chemotherapy.

Details of the procedure used to create the new type of pill are laid out in the journal Macromolecular Rapid Communications.