One of the most cumbersome and inconvenient aspects of diabetes is the fact that patients suffering from advanced forms need to inject insulin into their bloodstream each day. Delivering insulin has become big business, and many research groups have been looking for a method of making the entire process simpler and more efficient.
There are several hurdles associated with delivering insulin orally. They include the highly-acidic nature of gastric liquids, the complex nature of the insulin molecules, the rate at which epithelial cells absorb the compound and so on.
The discovery of a new polymer that may allow development of an effective insulin pill was reported at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society. When the polymer is used as a pill coating, it allows insulin to get into the bloodstream without being destroyed by the digestive system. So far it has only been tested in animals. Some experts question whether insulin in pill form will prove useful, since dosing is so critical and often variable.
Although daily injections of insulin would still be needed, inhaled insulin is currently in clinical trials and may be headed for a fast track approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These inhalers are about the size of a flashlight and uses rapid-acting insulin. The sprayed insulin is inhaled into the mouth and coats the mouth, throat and tongue. The insulin passes quickly into the bloodstream.