Investigators report that they saw nearly 100% of the hormone from their tablets go directly into the rats’ livers.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that insulin from their latest version of oral tablets was absorbed by rats in the same way as injected insulin.
“These exciting results show that we are well on the way to developing an insulin formulation that will no longer need to be injected before each meal, improving quality of life, as well as mental health, by more than 9 millions of people. [individuals with type 1 diabetes] around the world,” Anubhav Pratap-Singh, PhD, assistant professor of food processing in the university’s Faculty of Lands and Food Systems, said in a statement.
Investigators reported seeing nearly 100% of the insulin in their tablets go directly to the liver. Previous attempts to develop a drinkable insulin would accumulate in the stomach.
Even after 2 hours, investigators found no insulin in the rats’ stomachs.
Injections aren’t the most comfortable or convenient method of medication for people with diabetes, so researchers have worked to figure out how and where to facilitate a higher rate of absorption.
They have developed another type of oral tablet, which requires individuals to dissolve it between the cheek and the gumline instead of swallowing it.
The method uses the thin membrane found in the lining of the inner cheek and back of the lips, known as the buccal mucosa. This delivers all the insulin to the liver without breaking it down or wasting it along the way.
“For injected insulin, we typically need 100 IU per injection. Other swallowed pills in development that go into the stomach might require 500 IU of insulin, which is mostly wasted, and that’s a major problem that we have tried to circumvent,” Yigong Guo, a doctoral student, said in the statement.
Additionally, delivery of the oral tablet takes about half an hour and can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, the investigators said.
Other oral insulin tablets in development release insulin slowly over 2 to 4 hours, while rapid release injected insulin releases completely in about 30 to 120 minutes.
The investigators said they needed more collaborators, funding and time before the study could proceed in human trials.
However, they think the tablet they’re developing could be more accessible, more cost-effective, and more durable.
“More than 300,000 Canadians need to inject insulin several times a day,” Pratap-Singh said. “That’s a lot of environmental waste from needles and syringe plastic that might not be recycled and go to landfill, which wouldn’t be a problem with an oral tablet.”
Investigators hope the oral drug can reduce the cost of insulin per dose because their alternative is cheaper and easier to manufacture. In addition, transporting the tablets would be easier for people with diabetes, who must keep their medication cool.
The first part of the study was published in the journal Scientific reports.
UBC team developing oral insulin tablet achieves breakthrough results. Press release. Eurek alert. August 30, 2022. Accessed August 30, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/963235