Diabetes: New pill replaces daily insulin injections

Researchers from the United States (US) have developed a new pill that can deliver insulin straight into the stomach wall. Based on the development, the easy-to-swallow pill could now replace daily insulin injections, widely seen as a major barrier preventing people with type 2 diabetes from taking insulin injections.

The study findings have been published in the journal ‘Science’. When type 2 diabetes is at an advanced stage, the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin.

At this point, doctors usually recommend daily insulin injections to manage blood sugar levels. However, the inconvenience and the discomfort of taking this daily insulin injection make it one of the limitations of tackling diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy.

The total number of people with diabetes is projected to rise from 171 million in year 2000 to 366 million in 2030. The urban population in developing countries is projected to double between 2000 and 2030. By radically changing the delivery of insulin, Robert Langer, a professor at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, and his colleagues hope to make insulin treatment more palatable. The team came up with an innovative new design for a pill that consisted of a biodegradable capsule containing an insulin micro needle. When a person swallows the pill, insulin injects directly into the stomach wall.

As the stomach lining does not have any pain receptors, the researchers believe that this way of delivering the drug will be free of pain. “We are really hopeful that this new type of capsule could someday help diabetic patients and perhaps anyone who requires therapies that can now only be given by injection or infusion,” explains Langer.

After its injection into the stomach wall, the micro needle tip dissolves, and insulin enters the bloodstream. In the current study, this took roughly an hour, but the researchers can control the rate to some extent through the way in which they prepare the micro needle.

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