Questions for ‘Patches and robotic pills may one day replace injections’  

an illustration of various pills with various nanorobots inside each pill

Robotic pills may one day provide alternatives to conventional injections. This conceptual art imagines different designs for how futuristic mechanical pills may be structured.

Valentina Kruchinina/iStock/Getty Images Plus

To accompany ‘Patches and robotic pills may one day replace injections


Before Reading:

  1. Most drugs must make their way into your bloodstream to work properly. What do you think happens to a pill, such as an aspirin, after it’s swallowed? What obstacle must the aspirin get through to reach the blood? 
  2. Is the inside of the stomach acidic, basic or neutral? If you aren’t sure, do a quick internet search. Then consider that some pills are coated in a special layer called an “enteric coating.” That coating protects the pill for a while. Why do you think some types of pills require an enteric coating? Come up with one possible reason why and write it down.

During Reading:

  1. How long is a “robotic pill” microneedle in millimeters?
  2. According to Giovanni Traverso, why should an injection from their robotic pill not hurt?
  3. What animal inspired the robotic pill’s shape? What potential problem does this special shape prevent?
  4. Describe the role of “sugar glass” in the robotic pill. What can scientists adjust about that “sugar glass” that allows them to “control the timing” of its drug delivery? 
  5. Identify one medicine that the MIT team used for testing it’s robotic pill. 
  6. What are two body parts to which the new insulin patches can be stuck? What two animals did the team use for testing its patches?
  7. Sabine Szunerits imagines creating a “lollipop” device to accompany the patches. What does she say this device would do? How would this device allow for at-home use of the insulin patch?

After Reading:

  1. Which of the two innovations described in this story interests you the most? Explain your answer in one or two sentences. Would you feel comfortable using either one? For each device, explain why or why not in one sentence. 
  2. Pick one of the two innovations described in this article and write it down. Then make two lists. One list should be labeled “potential strengths” of that innovation. The second list should be “potential weaknesses.” Review the article to find strengths and weaknesses regarding your innovation of choice. Then use what you’ve learned to think up some strengths and weaknesses on your own. Come up with at least one “potential strength” and one “potential weakness” that was not discussed in the article. Finally, find a partner. Your partner can be someone who chose the same device as you or a different one. Share your lists. Discuss and compare your lists and suggest additions to each other’s lists.