A newly developed coating enables insulin to be absorbed orally, for example in the form of a capsule or a piece of chocolate, and can significantly improve blood sugar levels in diabetes without risking side effects such as hypoglycemia.
With the participation of experts from the University of Sydney and the University of Tromsø, a reactive oral insulin nanoformulation was developed that produces a dose-dependent reduction in blood glucose levels without causing biochemical or hematological toxicity or other adverse events. A study whose results were published in the journal “Nature Nanotechnology” shows how promising the new method is.
Problems of Oral Diabetes Medications
The newly developed oral insulin nanoformulation enables much more precise insulin delivery because it delivers insulin to where it is needed most in the body, the team explains. This has long been a major problem in the development of an oral diabetes drug, as insulin is broken down in the stomach using a nanocarrier.
However, if the insulin is administered with a syringe, the problem is that it is distributed throughout the body, which can lead to undesirable side effects, explains study author Professor Peter McCourt.
This means that more insulin reaches the muscles and fatty tissue than is normally released from the pancreas. This promotes increased fat accumulation and at the same time hypoglycemia, which can have dangerous consequences in diabetes.
Coating to protect insulin
“We have developed a coating that protects insulin from being broken down by stomach acid and digestive enzymes on its way through the digestive tract, so that it arrives safely at its destination, the liver,” the doctor added in a press release .
In the liver, this coating is finally broken down with the help of enzymes that are only active when blood sugar is high. According to the team, the insulin released in this way can then be absorbed by the liver or enter the blood to circulate in the body.
Rapid insulin release when needed
“This means that insulin is released rapidly when blood sugar is high and, more importantly, insulin is not released when blood sugar is low,” explains study author Nicholas J. Hunt.
The new method of oral administration not only reduces the risk of hypoglycemia, but also allows controlled release of insulin depending on the needs of the sick person, in contrast to injections in which all insulin is delivered to the body at once, the expert adds added.
Oral insulin was administered to diabetic mice and rats in experiments and did not cause hypoglycemia. The researchers report that the animals also did not experience weight gain or fat accumulation in the liver, as is the case with injectable and other oral insulins.
In addition, the insulin was also tested on a total of twenty healthy baboons, in which it led to a significant reduction in blood sugar levels. According to the researchers, tests on humans are now planned next, with the initial focus being on the safety of oral insulin and the occurrence of hypoglycemia.
If everything goes well, experts believe the new drug could come onto the market in two to three years. (as)