UBC researchers say insulin pill to treat diabetes is one step closer to reality

A group of researchers from the University of British Columbia say they are on the verge of developing a pill that could deliver insulin as effectively as an injection.

If they are successful, it could mean the end of daily insulin injections for many diabetic patients.

Recent test results with rats revealed that insulin from oral tablets was absorbed by rats in the same way as injected insulin, leaving virtually no insulin in the rats’ stomachs.

“[The insulin] was all in the liver and that’s the perfect target for insulin – that’s really what we wanted to see,” said PhD student Yigong Guo, who is working closely on the project.

UBC PhD candidate Yigong Guo demonstrates a test for the insulin pill he is helping to develop. (UBC)

Project leader Anubhav Pratap-Singh was inspired to continue the research by his father, who lives with type 2 diabetes.

“For 14 to 15 years, he has been taking [injected] insulin every day,” Pratap-Singh said. “The current approach of injecting insulin every day brings a lot of pain to patients and their family members.”

Diabetes is a disease in which a person’s body cannot produce insulin (type 1) or cannot properly use the insulin it produces (type 2).

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It is needed to control the amount of glucose, or sugar, in the blood. Insulin deficiency can lead to increased blood sugar and serious health problems, such as blindness, heart disease, kidney problems, amputation, nerve damage and erectile dysfunction.

According to Diabetes Canada, the only ways to administer insulin currently are through injections with pens, syringes or pumps. Depending on their specific diagnosis, patients may start one or more injections each day, or even before each meal.

There are several other methods of insulin delivery under development. In 2019, researchers at MIT developed a capsule that can be used to inject up to 300 micrograms of insulin.

Pratap-Singh said the oral tablets his team is developing will effectively deliver insulin to the buccal region – the area of ​​the mouth behind the cheeks and around the gums.

“We saw that the buccal region is something that actually gives a very similar profile to injected insulin,” he said.

“Keeping it in the mouth area allows us to deliver the insulin for a period of 40 to 45 minutes through a slow release mechanism. So that means the effectiveness is a bit prolonged.”

UBC professor Dr Anubhav Pratap-Singh says the inspiration to seek non-injectable insulin came from his diabetic father, who has been injecting himself with insulin three to four times a day for 15 years. (UBC)

According to the UBC researchers, most swallowed insulin tablets under development tend to release insulin slowly over two to four hours, while rapid-release injected insulin can be fully released within 30 minutes. at two o’clock.

Pratab-Singh says their rapid-release oral tablet has clear benefits for people with diabetes. Reducing the need for injections would also eliminate environmental waste from needles and syringe plastic that may not be recycled and go to landfill, he says.

The pills could also be more easily stored and transported than injected insulin, which must be refrigerated.

Pratab-Singh now says that trials have been conducted in small animals, they will need to test the tablets with larger animals before doing any human trials.


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