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'Virtual stomach' reveals pill's path

Penn State mechanical engineers, working with medical and pharmaceutical researchers, have developed the first computer-generated "virtual stomach" to follow the path of extended-release tablets that are designed to remain in the stomach for hours while slowly releasing medicine.

The researchers note that, although many medications are prepared in extended-release form, the details of exactly how the pills break down and release medicine in the stomach are largely unknown. The new "virtual stomach" has shown that tablet motion and mixing are highly sensitive to the pill's location in the stomach and to the coordination between the stomach's contractions and the opening and closing of the valve leading to the intestines.

Dr. James G. Brasseur, professor of mechanical engineering and leader of the project, says, "We can simulate the tablet breaking down with our new approach, watch the slow release of medication happen in a computer movie and analyze the process. Computer simulation allows us to 'control' the stomach and therefore provides more detail than you could get with human or even animal experiments. In fact, computer simulation may be the only way to observe the stomach's mechanical processes in such fine detail."

The researchers expect the new information provided by the virtual stomach to aid in the design and delivery of new extended-release tablet formulations, to shed light on diseases involving stomach motility and to help explain basic gastric function.

Dr. Anupam Pal will present the team's results at the meeting of the European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility in Tubingen, Germany, Oct. 4. Pal is first author of the team's report and a postdoctoral researcher in Brasseur's laboratory. He received the Society's Young Investigator Award for his work on the study. His poster is titled: "Relationship Between Gastric Motility, Mixing and Drug Release, Analyzed Using Computer Simulation."

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Contact: Barbara Hale
bah@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
4-Oct-2002


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