What Are Pills (Tablets)?
Pills, tablets, capsules and caplets - essentially anything with medication that can be digested, minus liquid forms, colloquially falls into the pill category. The compressed tablet was invented in the 1800s by a Brit named William Brockedon. He put powder in a tube and compressed it with a mallet, and thus a whole new type of pill was created. Today, the compressed tablet is the most popular dosage form in use, and comprises a mixture of active substances and excipients, usually in powder form, pressed or compacted from a powder into a solid dose. In the tablet pressing process, the main guideline is to ensure that the appropriate amount of active ingredient is in each tablet, this is referred to as pharmaceutical formulation.
Pharmaceutical formulation, in pharmaceutics, is defined as the process in which different chemical substances, including the active drug, are combined to produce a final medicinal product. Tablets usually contain a variety of other potentially inert substances apart from the drug itself. Pre-formulation involves the characterization of a drug's physical, chemical, and mechanical properties in order to choose what other ingredients (excipients) should be used in the preparation. Solid formulations (pills) combine the drug product with a variety of compounds to ensure a stable active medication following storage. These include solubilizers, stabilizers, buffers, tonicity modifiers, bulking agents, viscosity enhancers/reducers, surfactants, chelating agents, and adjuvants. Dissolution time refers to whether the medication is rapid effect or sustained release. Types of sustained release formulations include liposomes, drug loaded biodegradable micro-spheres and drug polymer conjugates.
How Do Cultures Live in Probiotics?
Some bacteria, like lactobacillus (a probiotic bacteria), will form what is known as endospores when conditions get harsh and food is scarce. It's like hibernating, as they stop growing and can even lose their moisture and dry out - as in probiotic powder. They wait like that until conditions are ideal to grow again - like when they are in your digestive system. Refrigeration may help them survive longer in this state, but it is not strictly necessary all the time. Probiotics are usually freeze dried during the manufacturing process to keep them as inert as possible. They are also commonly manufactured with significant overages (i.e. supplement makers may claim there are 50 Billion live cultures per capsule - but actually fill each capsule with 75 billion plus live cultures).
So What Are Endospores?
Certain genera of Gram-positive bacteria, such as Bacillus, Clostridium, Sporohalobacter, Anaerobacter, and Heliobacterium, can form highly resistant, dormant structures called endospores. An endospore is a dormant, tough, and non-reproductive structure produced by certain bacteria from the Firmicute phylum. Endospores enable bacteria to lie dormant for extended periods, even centuries. Endospores even allow bacteria to survive exposure to the vacuum and radiation in space! Revival of spores millions of years old has been claimed. When the environment becomes more favorable, the endospore can reactivate itself to the vegetative state. However, most types of bacteria cannot change to the endospore form. Examples of bacteria that can form endospores include Bacillus and Clostridium.
Dormancy is a period in an organism's life cycle when growth, development, and (in animals) physical activity are temporarily stopped. This minimizes metabolic activity (bacteria exhibit an extremely wide variety of metabolic types) and therefore helps an organism to conserve energy. Many bacteria can survive adverse conditions such as temperature, desiccation, and antibiotics by endospores, cysts, conidia or states of reduced metabolic activity lacking specialized cellular structures. Up to 80% of the bacteria in samples from the wild appear to be metabolically inactive, many of which can be resuscitated.
The Future of Drug Ingredient Delivery
While some companies plan to develop drugs to reset the microbiomes of sick people, Seres Therapeutics is one of a few planning to use live bacteria to do the same job by developing the first regulated, clinically approved bacteria-filled pill to treat diseases associated with disruptions to the microbes, such as Clostridium difficile infection, inside the human body.