Home Medizin Neues orales Insulin, das über Nanoträger verabreicht wird, könnte bald Injektionen ersetzen

Neues orales Insulin, das über Nanoträger verabreicht wird, könnte bald Injektionen ersetzen

von NFI Redaktion

About 425 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes. Approximately 75 million of them inject themselves with insulin daily. There may now be a new alternative to needles or insulin pumps. Scientists have found a new way to provide the body with smart insulin.

The new insulin can be consumed by taking a capsule or even better, a piece of chocolate.

It contains tiny nanocarriers in which the insulin is encapsulated. The particles are 1/10,000th the width of a human hair and so small that they can’t even be seen under a regular microscope.

This method of insulin intake is more precise as insulin is quickly delivered to the parts of the body that need it the most. When insulin is taken via a syringe, it is distributed throughout the entire body and can cause unwanted side effects,“ said Professor Peter McCourt of the Arctic University at UiT Norway


He is one of the researchers behind the study. The research was recently published in Nature Nanotechnology.

Delivered to the Liver

It was researchers from the University of Sydney and the Sydney Local Health District, who, in collaboration with UiT, discovered many years ago that it is possible to transport medications to the liver via nanocarriers. The method was then developed further in Australia and Europe.

Many medications can be taken orally, but so far, people have had to inject insulin into their bodies. McCourt explains that the issue with insulin with a nanocarrier is that it disintegrates in the stomach and does not reach where it is needed in the body. This was a major challenge in the development of an oral diabetes medication.

But now, the researchers have solved this challenge.

„We have created a coating to protect the insulin from being broken down by stomach acid and digestive enzymes on its journey through the digestive system and to hold it safely until it reaches its intended target, namely the liver,“ says McCourt, a liver biologist.

The coating is then broken down in the liver by enzymes that are only active when blood sugar levels are high, releasing the insulin, which can then work in the liver, muscles, and fat to remove sugar from the blood.

„This means that when blood sugar is high, insulin is released quickly, and even more importantly, when blood sugar is low, no insulin is released,“ says Nicholas J. Hunt of the University of Sydney, who leads the project together with Victoria Cogger.

He explains that this is a more practical and patient-friendly method for treating diabetes, as it significantly reduces the risk of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, and allows for a controlled release of insulin according to the patient’s needs, unlike injections where all the insulin is released at once.

Fewer Side Effects

The new method works similarly to insulin in healthy individuals. The pancreas produces insulin, which passes through the liver, where a large part of it is absorbed and keeps blood sugar levels stable. With the new insulin method, the nanocarrier releases insulin in the liver, where it can be absorbed or enter the bloodstream to circulate in the body.

„When insulin is injected under the skin with a syringe, much more of it reaches the muscles and fat tissue than would normally be released from the pancreas, leading to fat accumulation and hypoglycemia, which can be dangerous for people with diabetes,“ he explains.

The new method will result in fewer such side effects.

Furthermore, there’s no need to prick yourself with a needle, and you can take the medications you need in a more discreet manner. Additionally, this form of insulin does not need to be refrigerated.

Tested on Baboons

The oral insulin was tested on nematodes, mice, and rats. Finally, the medication was tested on baboons in the National Baboon Colony in Australia.

„To make the oral insulin palatable, we incorporated it into sugar-free chocolate, and this approach was well-received,“ says Hunt.

He reveals that 20 baboons participated in the study. When they received the medication, their blood sugar levels decreased.

The baboons were normal, healthy animals, but the oral insulin was also tested on mice and rats that actually suffered from diabetes. No hypoglycemia or weight gain occurred in the mice and rats, despite them overcoming the current challenges with injectable and other oral insulins.

Now, the new method only needs to be tested on humans.

Ready for Use in 2-3 Years

„Studies in humans will begin in 2025 under the leadership of the spin-out company Endo Axiom Pty Ltd. Clinical studies will be conducted in three phases; in the Phase I study, we will examine the safety of oral insulin and critically evaluate the frequency of hypoglycemia in healthy and type 1 diabetics. Our team is very much looking forward to knowing if we can reproduce the absence of hypoglycemic results observed in baboons in humans, as this would be a huge advancement. The experiments are subject to stringent quality requirements and must be conducted in collaboration with doctors to ensure they are safe for the test subjects,“ Hunt states.

„After this Phase I, it will be known that it is safe for humans, and in Phase 2 studies, we will investigate how it can replace injections for diabetics,“ the researcher adds.

The researchers hope that the new medication can be ready for use in 2-3 years.


Arctic University of Norway

Journal reference:

Hunt, NJ, et al. (2024). Oral Nano-Therapeutic Insulin Formulation with Reduced Hypoglycemic Episodes. Nature Nanotechnology. doi.org/10.1038/s41565-023-01565-2.

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