Insulin In A Pill: Is It Time To Say Goodbye To Needles?

An oral delivery method that could completely change the way diabetics monitor their blood sugar levels has been generated by researchers from Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

For millions of people who have type 1 diabetes, swallowing a pill is much better and less painful compared to getting an injection once or twice day.

“But many people fail to adhere to that regimen due to pain, phobia of needles, and the interference with normal activities,” said senior author Samir Mitragotri, Hiller Professor of Bioengineering and Hansjorg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at SEAS.

“The consequences of the resulting poor glycemic control can lead to serious health complications.”

Oral insulin delivery guarantees improvement in the quality of life of the 40 million type 1 diabetics globally.

The new insulin formulation is easy to manufacture and it is biocompatible.

The oral medication can be stored for up to two months at room temperature, longer than the average shelf life of many injectable insulin products.

Currently, insulin delivered through injection is the only way that diabetics can get insulin into their bodies. Type 1 diabetics cannot produce insulin on their own.

“Our approach is like a Swiss Army knife, where one pill has tools for addressing each of the obstacles that are encountered.” said Mitragotri, who is also a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.

Insulin in pill form would closely mimic how the pancreas of a healthy person produces and delivers insulin to the liver, where around 80% is extracted while the rest flows through the bloodstream.

This research was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Commercialization opportunities for this technology is currently being pursued by Harvard’s Office of Technology Development.

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