According to scientists from the University of British Columbia, Canada, their latest oral insulin tablet alternative to an insulin injection formulation absorbs insulin as effectively as the injected form.
Those with type 1 diabetes are insulin-deficient, so they must receive multiple daily insulin injections to keep their blood sugar levels in check. As a result, they often experience discomfort or pain when receiving these injections.
People with type 2 diabetes sometimes have to take insulin injections, particularly if their blood glucose levels are high.
Professor Anubhav Pratap-Singh from the Faculty of Land and Food Systems, the principal investigator, said: ‘These encouraging results indicate that we are on the right path to developing an oral alternative to insulin formulation that can be taken orally instead of injected before each meal, improving the quality of life as well as mental health for the nearly nine million Type 1 diabetics around the world.’
Dr Pratap-Singh was inspired to develop a non-injectable insulin solution after witnessing his father living with diabetes and requiring injections up to three or four times daily.
Rat trials have so far been the only ones conducted, but noninjectable human insulin might soon be available after further testing.
Currently, most oral insulin tablets are being developed, and they typically release insulin slowly over a period of two to four hours. However, rapid-acting insulin injections can release the hormone within 30 to 120 minutes or even fully in as little as 30 to 120 minutes.
Prior oral solutions take longer to be absorbed, with most of the insulin dose settling in the stomach rather than reaching its intended destination in a person’s liver.
Pancreatic cells produce insulin, which is then taken up by liver cells to maintain blood sugar levels.
The team wanted to see if they could improve the absorption rate of oral insulin tablets, so they created a pill that is not swallowed but rather dissolves when placed between the gum and cheek.
According to Yigong Guo, a PhD candidate involved in the creation of the oral insulin pill, 100 units of insulin is required each time an injection is given. However, swallowed tablets being developed that go to the stomach will require 500 units of insulin, which mainly will be wasted, and that’s a big issue we’ve been trying to address.
Researchers have demonstrated a new method for delivering insulin to the liver using the buccal mucosa (a thin membrane lining the inner cheek and the back of the lips).
“After two hours of delivery, we still couldn’t find any insulin in the rats’ stomachs. All of the insulin was in the liver, and this is where we wanted to find it — it was exactly what we were looking for,” Yigong said.
Pratap-Singh believes that the tablets his team are developing could be more sustainable, cost-effective, and accessible if the study is given more time and funding. Furthermore, he believes the tablets could improve the quality of life for people with diabetes.
According to Dr Pratap-Singh, the large amount of environmental waste produced from the needles and plastic from the syringe that would not be recycled and would end up in a landfill would not be an issue if an oral tablet were used.