Glucose-responsive insulin tablets (in animals)

Researchers from Australia and Norway have developed a new form of insulin that can be taken by mouth rather than injection. The pills travel through the digestive system to the liver, where they only release insulin when they detect high glucose levels.

Because insulin breaks down easily in acidic environments like our stomachs, where there is a low pH, the researchers – supported by JDRF research grants – have overcome this by attaching the insulin to tiny particles called nanocarriers which – measuring just 1/10,000th the width of a human hair – can carry insulin safely through the body until it reaches the liver. The nanocarriers can also detect a chemical that is only present when glucose levels are high. When they sense this chemical, they release the insulin they’re carrying so that it can remove the excess glucose. This means that when blood sugar is high, there is a rapid release of insulin, and – even more importantly – when blood sugar is low, no insulin is released. As a result, the insulin can help control blood glucose without causing unwanted hypos.

There are many advantages to taking insulin via the mouth rather than injections. It is more precise because it delivers the insulin rapidly to the areas of the body that need it most, whereas when you take insulin with a syringe, it is spread throughout  the body where it can cause unwanted side effects. Removing the need for insulin injections could also make managing type 1 easier for children and people with needlephobia. Furthermore, these insulin pills do not need to be kept cold, and could make insulin more accessible for people living in hot countries or with limited electricity as well as helping making travelling with Type 1 easier.

The research is still at an early stage and clinical trials in people will start in 2025.

To find out more, CLICK HERE.


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