Di­a­bet­ics could ditch Daily In­jec­tions as Sci­en­tists de­velop In­sulin Pill

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

Apill that will save mil­lions of di­a­bet­ics world­wide from ad­min­is­ter­ing in­va­sive daily in­sulin in­jec­tions is now on the verge of be­com­ing re­al­ity.

Sci­en­tists are de­vel­op­ing a new way of de­liv­er­ing the hor­mone orally us­ing tiny vesi­cles that can de­liver in­sulin where it needs to go, with­out a shot. These new vesi­cles are re­port­edly made of nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring lipid mol­e­cules, which are nor­mal build­ing blocks of fats.

Ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Mary McCourt of Ni­agara Univer­sity, New York State: “We have de­vel­oped a new tech­nol­ogy called a Cholesto­some.

“A Cholesto­some is a neu­tral, lipid-based par­ti­cle that is ca­pa­ble of do­ing some very in­ter­est­ing things.”

Dr McCourt ex­plained that the big­gest hur­dle to de­liv­er­ing in­sulin orally is get­ting it through the stom­ach in­tact, since pro­teins like in­sulin are no match for the highly acidic en­vi­ron­ment of the stom­ach.

They de­grade be­fore they can move into the in­testines and blood­stream, where they are needed to lower blood glu­cose lev­els.

Sev­eral ap­proaches have been tried to over­come this prob­lem, with one – cur­rently in clin­i­cal tri­als – pack­ag­ing in­sulin in­side a pro­tec­tive coat­ing to shield the pro­tein from stom­ach acids.

In­hal­able in­sulin has also been used but de­spite pos­i­tive re­views from some pa­tients, it met with lit­tle suc­cess.

McCourt’s team has nev­er­the­less de­vel­oped a new ap­proach with promis­ing re­sults.

The re­searchers have suc­cess­fully en­cap­su­lated in­sulin in a coat­ing made of fat, which pro­tects it so it can get through the di­ges­tive sys­tem into the blood­stream.

The new vesi­cles are un­like other lipid-based drug car­ri­ers, called li­po­somes, re­searchers said. Ni­agara Univer­sity’s Dr Lawrence Miel­nicki said: “Most li­po­somes need to be pack­aged in a poly­mer coat­ing for pro­tec­tion.

“Here, we’re just us­ing sim­ple lipid esters to make vesi­cles with the drug mol­e­cules in­side.”

Com­puter mod­el­ling showed that once the lipids are as­sem­bled into spheres, they form neu­tral par­ti­cles re­sis­tant to at­tack from stom­ach acids. Drugs can be loaded in­side, and the par­ti­cles can pass through the stom­ach with­out de­grad­ing.

The vesi­cles pass through the in­testines, into the blood­stream, and then cells take them in and break them apart, re­leas­ing in­sulin.

Tests with rats showed that cer­tain for­mu­la­tions of Cholesto­somes loaded with in­sulin have high “bioavail­abil­ity” – mean­ing that the vesi­cles travel into the blood­stream where the in­sulin needs to be.

The re­searchers now plan to fur­ther op­ti­mise the for­mu­la­tions and de­velop new part­ner­ships to move into hu­man tri­als.

Around 420 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide suf­fer from di­a­betes and 3.7 mil­lion deaths are at­trib­uted to the dis­ease each year, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO).

The life-threat­en­ing con­di­tion is en­demic in the Caribbean.

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