Over two million Canadians have diabetes, a number that’s expected to hit three million by the end of the decade. Many of them require daily injections of insulin. But the need for daily injections could be phased out soon, as an insulin pill might finally be on the horizon. Until now this has been impossible, because stomach acids quickly destroy the hormone before it can be absorbed—but Texas researchers say they’ve discovered a gel-like substance that could make an efficient oral insulin delivery system.
In lab tests, the material (called a “polymer hydrogel”) actually expanded once it hit the stomach, protecting the insulin. When the delivery pods reached the less acidic small intestine, they shrunk down and released their load.
The study authors, who are based out of the University of Texas at Austin, conclude this “shows great promise as an oral insulin delivery system.” But it could be several more years before it comes to market—their experiments were performed in a laboratory dish.