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New Method To Take Insulin Orally

Posted: Thursday, January 03, 2008

Diabetes treatment could get a whole lot easier to swallow. Dr. Robert Doyle, assistant professor of chemistry at Syracuse University has designed, tested, reproduced and patented a system for delivering insulin through an oral pill. 

The system could potentially be used by humans battling diabetes. With Doyle's method, they could simply swallow a vitamin pill.

More than 21 million individuals in the United States have diabetes, yet taking insulin orally has not been possible because it must go through the gastrointestinal tract, which prevents it from reaching the bloodstream. Being able to orally receive insulin would drastically change the lives of diabetics and the scope of the diseases' treatment, researchers said. The innovation in Doyle's research is that they have found a way to attach the insulin to vitamin B-12. The vitamin protects the insulin as it journeys through the gastrointestinal tract in a "Trojan horse" strategy. "It's really like the holy grail of diabetes research…in terms of treatable things," said Tony Vortherms, a graduate student who worked on the project.

Now the team will determine whether they can attach more insulin to the vitamin so that it can remain in the bloodstream for 12 hours. The ultimate goal would be for a diabetic to take two insulin pills a day - one in the morning and one at night - which would help them to maintain their metabolic control throughout the day, according to a news release announcing the discovery. "This would be a way to minimize the roller coaster of blood sugar levels the best we can," Vortherms said. "We still have a long way to go." The ultimate question is if and when this strategy can be used in humans.

It will probably take at least five years before a pharmaceutical company will take interest in the project - which has great commercial possibilities - and test it, Petrus said. The first stage would be a more elaborate test on rats and then trials to determine its effect in humans. Petrus is optimistic. "From what I've seen so far," she said, "I do believe it's possible." "The goal of this project would be to give people who are not able to produce insulin on their own at least a base level of insulin in their blood," Vortherms said. He added that one of the biggest problems currently is the drastic swings in blood sugar levels that diabetics go through daily. The sugar highs and lows over the long term lead to wear and tear on the individuals.

Vortherms said he is very interested in the other fields in which oral delivery like this could work and added there was a "decent to good chance" of it being used in humans in the future. In the news release, Doyle said he was pleased because of the rare payoff in scientific research, where results must be tested and re-tested to ensure reproduction."In the case of insulin, we had a hypothesis, we set about testing our hypothesis and we were rewarded for the effort," he said. "Having things go your way doesn't happen in science often enough, so when it does it's very rewarding." Fairchild sees the benefit of removing needles from the equation of diabetic treatment. "The possibility of having an oral insulin medication has tremendous feasibility, particularly with children and in less-developed countries where sterile needles and adequate training - for injection site and frequency, as well as needle disposal - may not always be available," he said.

He added that there is a lot of research being conducted in the field of diabetes treatment and other teams are looking at their own means for getting insulin into the bloodstream without the pain of injections.

Source: Diabetes In Control

 
 
 
 
 
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