Combatting the Helicobacter pylori bacteria that cause ulcers is a challenge because stomach acid can destroy antibiotics before they have a chance to work, reports New Scientist. To get around this, the drugs are given together with proton pump inhibitors that make the stomach less acidic, but long-term use of the inhibitors can cause side effects.
So researchers led by Joseph Wang and Liangfang Zhang of the University of California, San Diego, devised micromotors, about half the width of a human hair, with a core of magnesium, a protective layer of titanium dioxide, the antibiotic clarithromycin, and a polymer that sticks to the stomach wall, according to a university statement. The little capsules were engineered only to release their antibiotic cargo at a certain (not too acidic) pH.
Chemist Thomas Mallouk at Pennsylvania State University who was not involved in the study tells New Scientist, “It’s a really nifty and impressive application. Micromotors are still new, but their impact will be big.”
Such drug-delivery devices could also potentially enable oral treatment of diabetes by preventing stomach acid from breaking down insulin, reports the International Business Times.