Diabetes patients could soon be able to take a pill to control their condition instead of repeated injections, researchers have claimed.
Some diabetics have a fear of needles
Experts at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen have found insulin can be covered by a coating which means it could eventually be taken orally.
Currently, the drug has to be injected so it is not broken down before it reaches the bloodstream.
The development offers hope to patients with a phobia of needles.
The research, presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Manchester, shows that the coating means that insulin is protected from enzyme breakdown.
Dr Colin Thompson, of the university's School of Pharmacy, said: "We have been working on developing an oral insulin because studies show that a great many people with diabetes fear injections.
"Being able to take insulin orally would have a significant impact on the lives of many of these patients - not just eliminating the need for injections, but also offering a much more convenient form of treatment."
People with type 1 diabetes rely on insulin injections.
Often, type 2 diabetes can be controlled by diet alone or other oral diabetes drugs. It is only as the disease progresses that insulin may be needed.
Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1.
Other scientists have also been looking at ways to deliver insulin by mouth without it being degraded in the stomach.
Taiwanese investigators are using a chemical found in shrimp shells to protect the drug.
Inhaled insulin is already available to those diabetics with a proven needle phobia or people who have severe trouble injecting.