Ultrasound shown to speed IBS drug absorption in the colon

Ultrasound has long been known to accelerate internal drug absorption. It works by producing tiny bubbles that the sound waves cause to implode, driving the medication into its target tissue in a reaction called transient cavitation.

A preclinical trial has demonstrated the feasibility of leveraging this process to treat inflammatory bowel disease and other GI disorders.

The study was published Oct. 21 in Science Translational Medicine.

Researchers at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital first successfully tested the approach in the GI tracts of pigs, finding that applying ultrasound greatly increased absorption of various molecules, according to an article in MIT News.

In subsequent tests using mice, the team delivered the colitis drug mesalamine followed by one second of ultrasound every day for two weeks.

The symptoms resolved.

Meanwhile the drug had no effect when delivered without ultrasound.

If the innovation works as well in humans, it may replace treatments via enema. This standard care path requires the colon to maintain the drugs for hours to ensure full absorption—an unpleasant proposition for patients already suffering with diarrhea and fecal incontinence.

“We've been working on ultrasound as a means to enhance transport through materials and skin since the mid-1980s, and I think the implications of this new approach have the potential to aid many patients,” Robert Langer, FREng, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and a senior author of the paper, told MIT News.

The publication notes that, in 1995, Langer and Daniel Blankschtein, PhD, who is also a senior author of the paper, reported in Science that ultrasound could enable delivery of drugs through the skin.

However, until now, the capability for enhanced absorption had not been explored in the GI tract.

The study’s lead author is Carl Schoellhammer, PhD, a graduate student in chemical engineering.

To learn more about the process, check out the video from MIT News below: