Diabetes treatment could get better, as scientists have developed an insulin pill to replace insulin injections and keep diabetics blood sugar level in check.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers at the Harvard John A Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) found a way to deliver insulin through a pill.
Samir Mitragotri and Hansjorg Wyss are two of the authors of the study, explaining that the pill is a good way to treat people who are afraid of needles, or who cannot have their shots, as their interfere with their activities:
“Many people fail to adhere to that regimen due to pain, phobia of needles, and the interference with normal activities. The consequences of the resulting poor glycemic control can lead to serious health complications.”
The Pill is “like a Swiss army knife”
Mr. Mitragotri explains why it’s been so difficult to make an insulin pill. Previous attempts proved to be unsuccessful, as the oral insulin encounters acids in the stomach and cannot be effectively absorbed in the intestine:
“Our approach is like a Swiss army knife, where one pill has tools for addressing each of the obstacles that are encountered.”
This is why researchers used a capsule that is coated to be resistant to acids in the stomach. As soon as the coating reaches the alkaline environment in the small intestine, it starts dissolving, releasing insulin.
The insulin is inside an ionic liquid that contains choline (a nutrient similar to vitamins) and geranic acid (a chemical used as a food additive that is found naturally in lemongrass and cardamom) – both are already considered safe. The liquid carrying insulin breaks through the layer of music which lines the intestine, and then it travels the cell junctions of the intestine walls.
An Insulin Pill Is Easy to Create and Biocompatible
The formula is biocompatible, easy to create, and it can be stored for about two months at room temperature without degrading.
Mark Prausnitz, junior chair in chemical and biomolecular engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said that:
“This study shows remarkable results where insulin given by mouth in combination with an ionic liquid works about as well as a conventional injection. The implications of this work to medicine could be huge, if the findings can be translated into pills that safely and effectively administer insulin and other peptide drugs to humans.”
Similar to this approach, other proteins could be delivered orally.
The next step for the researchers is to conduct more tests on animals and see the results from studies on long-term toxicology and bioavailability. They are optimistic they will get the approval of clinical trials in humans.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere