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When people swallow a pill, they expect the medicine to quickly reach the source of their pain or illness, but how well medications can be absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract is variable. Predicting that rate is a crucial step in a drug’s long journey from lab discovery to medicine chest.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hope to accelerate that process with a new way to assess oral drug absorption, one they also say is more accurate than current approaches. A team led by two biomedical engineers, the prolific entrepreneur Robert Langer and the gastroenterologist Giovanni Traverso, has cultured a model GI tract from pig intestines that they assert better mimics the human digestive system than current models based on colorectal cancer cells. 


Their design places whole tissues from pigs in a 96-well plate that robots can maneuver to rapidly screen thousands of samples per day compared to longer time frames other methods may require. Their paper was published Monday in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

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