Researchers have found that insulin can be protected in a chemical coating known as a novel polymer, bringing the possibility of an insulin capsule ever closer.
The coating is a key step to ensuring that insulin taken orally is not broken down by enzymes and rendered useless before entering the blood stream, say the team of researchers from Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University.
“Further testing of this complex is needed to determine its suitability as an insulin delivery system - a goal that is some years away. However, our research is taking us a significant step forward towards this important goal and offering hope to people who are living with diabetes,” said Dr Colin Thompson, Research Fellow at the university’s School of Pharmacy.
Libby Dowling, Care Advisor at Diabetes UK, said: “Oral insulin could make a big difference to the lives of people with diabetes. Children, elderly people and those with a phobia of needles would benefit particularly if and when insulin capsules become a safe and effective treatment for the condition.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have to inject themselves several times a day to control their diabetes. This can cause a great deal of stress to some people and be difficult to come to terms with. Although more research is needed, Diabetes UK would very much like to see insulin capsules one day become a reality.”
She added: "Many people with Type 2 diabetes take diabetes tablets. They are not the same as insulin. As yet insulin cannot be taken in tablet form because it would be broken down in the stomach before it could work. Diabetes tablets work in different ways to lower blood glucose levels – for example by stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin, or by helping the body to use the insulin that it does produce more effectively."