Could this insulin pill replace injections for people with type 1 diabetes?

A revolutionary insulin pill may allow people with type 1 diabetes to avoid needing to take injections, according to researchers in the US.

A specialist unit at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a 3cm capsule which could carry similar levels of insulin as a standard injection.

The results of the study suggest the pill is capable of reaching the small intestine intact, and that it can deliver insulin through the gut wall.

Unlike many other medicines already available as pills, insulin is a protein and is broken down in the stomach before it can get to work. This raises difficulties in developing a pill capable of surviving in the acidic environment of the stomach and only releasing the insulin once it reaches the intestines.

The research team has developed a special coating which allows the pill to withstand stomach acid and then disperse the insulin upon reaching the small intestine. The capsule achieves this by having a set of tiny arms that have 1 mm microneedles on them.

In the small intestine, the arms unfold, and the needles penetrate through the surface of the wall of the small intestine and deliver the dose of insulin. The microneedles dissolve and the rest of the capsule passes out of the body as waste.

However, further work will be required on the timing of the insulin release. The pill’s arrival in the intestine depends on how quickly a person digests their food, making it difficult to gauge the correct dose around mealtimes.

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