Researchers in Canada developing oral treatment for diabetes

TORONTO: A team of researchers in Canada has claimed to be developing an oral treatment for diabetes where insulin absorption is similar to that for injected doses.

That breakthrough was announced in a release issued by the University of British Columbia (UBC), which noted, “researchers have discovered that insulin from the latest version of their oral tablets is absorbed by rats in the same way that injected insulin is”.

The team of researchers is led by Indo-Canadian principal investigator, Dr Anubhav Pratap-Singh, who is UBC’s faculty of Land and Food Systems.

The first part of the study was also published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Dr Pratap-Singh, who studied chemical engineering at IIT-Kharagpur, said, “These exciting results show that we are on the right track in developing an insulin formulation that will no longer need to be injected before every meal, improving the quality of life, as well as mental health, of more than nine million Type 1 diabetics around the world.”

The inspiration for the research, he said, came from his father, a diabetic who has required three or four insulin injections each day over the past 15 years.

The development work on the pill has yet to move to human trials, so a timeframe for the final product has yet to be specified. However, Dr Pratap-Singh said, if successfully delivered, the oral tablet would “be more sustainable, cost-effective and accessible”.

While other oral insulin alternatives are being tested across the world, the UBC team focused on “how to facilitate a higher absorption rate”.

This particular tablet is not meant to be swallowed but instead placed between the gum and cheek, allowing it to dissolve. “This method makes use of the thin membrane found within the lining of the inner cheek and back of the lips (also known as the buccal mucosa). It delivered all the insulin to the liver without wasting or decomposing any insulin along the way,” the UBC release stated.

Dr Alberto Baldelli, a senior fellow in Dr Pratap-Singh’s laboratory, said they were now seeing nearly 100% of the insulin from their tablets go straight into the liver, while in previous attempts to develop a drinkable insulin, most of it would accumulate in the stomach. “Similar to the rapid-acting insulin injection, our oral delivery tablet absorbs after half an hour and can last for about two to four hours long,” Dr Baldelli said.

Dr Pratap-Singh hoped their process could “reduce the cost of insulin per dose” as their “oral alternative could be cheaper and easier to make”

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