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Monday, 27 August, 2001, 23:28 GMT 00:28 UK
Insulin pill hope for diabetics
Hopes are high that an insulin pill could be on the market within 10 years
Daily insulin injections for diabetics could soon become a thing of the past.

A chemistry student in American has come up with a new material which he says could soon allow people with diabetes to take their insulin orally in the form of a pill.

Some insulin dependant diabetics have to give themselves three injections a day.

But so far attempts to replace these with oral insulin have failed because too much is destroyed by the harsh acids in the mouth, throat and stomach.

I think we might be able to find something that has more responsiveness to be able to deliver even more insulin than this particular one

Aaron Foss

The new material, a polymer with a gel-like consistency, is thought to be more effective because it protects the insulin until it reaches the small intestine, where it is absorbed into the blood.

Aaron Foss, a graduate student at Purdue University, who made the breakthrough, said that because the small intestine was less acidic it enabled the polymer to swell and release the insulin.

Mr Foss and his tutor Dr Nicholas Peppas, presented their findings to the 222nd national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Diabetes sugar monitor
Most diabetics use an insulin pen

Preliminary tests on animals are promising and show that up to 16% of the insulin can now be carried to the bloodstream, compared to the 0.1% previously.

Mr Foss said: "It worked beautifully, I decreased the acidity after two hours, and suddenly the material opened up and released the insulin out into the solution.

"We've got something that works right now, but I think we might be able to find something that has more responsiveness to be able to deliver even more insulin than this particular one.

"So we are changing some parameters, looking at different ratios, looking at different compounds, not completely changing the system but varying different aspects to see if we can optimise it."

Improving lives

Mairi Benson, of Diabetes UK, said: "This is very interesting research. Diabetes UK welcomes advances which make life easier for people with diabetes.

"But it is very early days, and we await further results with interest."

The scientists hope that this research will lead to the introduction insulin pills and other products onto the market within a decade.

See also:

27 Jun 01 | Health
Hopes for diabetes cure
17 Jun 01 | Health
'An end to insulin jabs'
10 Jun 01 | Health
Diabetes deaths 'unnecessary'
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