Oral Insulin Could Replace Injections

Scientists believe that they have found a way to make insulin for diabetics available in pills instead of daily shots. This breakthrough could prove to be a boon for diabetics as these pills could eliminate the daily injections of insulin. Injections under the skin allow insulin to be absorbed slowly enough to control blood sugar levels. Previously efforts to control diabetes with insulin pills had failed because the body digests oral insulin much too quickly.

The research was carried out at the department of chemical and biochemical engineering at the Purdue University, Indiana. The new product is so far tested only in diabetic rats and dogs. In tests on about 150 rats and dogs that were given pills coated with the new material, up to 16 percent of the insulin made it to the bloodstream compared with 50 percent to 80 percent with insulin injections, but it's still enough to control blood sugar. Previous experimental insulin pills only allowed about 1 percent of the hormone to reach the bloodstream. According to researchers the new pills could overcome the barriers of the harsh digestive acid in the stomach, and let insulin seep into the bloodstream through the small intestine.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps convert foods including sugar into energy. In diabetes, the body is unable to produce or properly use insulin, resulting in high blood sugar levels. Some diabetics must inject themselves daily with insulin to help regulate blood sugar levels, but the shots can be painful, inconvenient and costly.

If the oral product makes it to the market, it will definitely improve the quality of life for patients. These pills show promise in keeping humans off insulin injections but they are still in the experimental stage.

Source: Reuters.

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