Researchers Develop New Technique to Deliver Insulin in Pills

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Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) devised an oral delivery technique to check blood sugar level in diabetics.

Most of the chronic health patients opt for a pill to swallow instead of an injection. However, for those suffering from type 1 diabetes, a regular injection of insulin is the only option as their bodies cannot produce insulin on their own. Now, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences devised an oral delivery technique to monitor blood sugar level in diabetics.

An insulin injection keeps check of glucose level in the body. An oral insertion of insulin gets poorly absorbed in the acidic environment of stomach. The researchers thus opt to carry insulin in an ionic liquid composed of choline and geranic acid. The ionic liquid composition is wrapped in a capsule with an acid-resistant enteric coating. The pill is biocompatible and easy to manufacture. The shelf life of the pill is two months at room temperature, which is higher than injectable insulin currently available.

The resistance of gastric acid in guts is overcome by the eccentric coating and restricts the insulin-ionic liquid formulation from breaking down in the stomach. Once the capsule reaches the small intestine, the polymer coating dissolves in its alkaline environment and releases the ionic liquid carrying insulin.  The researchers noticed that the choline- geranic acid formulation efficiently breached the layer of mucus lining of the intestine and the tight cell junctions of its walls.  The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on June 25, 2018. This technique can be a boost to deliver many other protein and peptide drugs other than insulin in a convenient way. It could also eliminate the side effects of taking injections for a longer period of time.

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