Here was the challenge for bioengineers: Find a way for patients to take drugs — like insulin or monoclonal antibodies used to treat cancers and other diseases — without injections.

The medicines are made of molecules too big to be absorbed through the stomach or intestines; in any event, the drugs would be quickly degraded by the body’s harsh digestive system.

Now, a team of scientists may have found a solution that delivers these drugs in a capsule a person can swallow. Their inspiration? A tortoise that always rights itself after rolling over.

The test device, called Soma, is shaped like the tortoise’s shell. Inside is a miniature post made of insulin. After the tiny device positions itself against the stomach wall, the post pops out and injects insulin. The device then travels through the colon and eventually is eliminated by the patient.