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New Oral Capsule Offers Hope for Diabetics Seeking Relief from Injections

A team of scientists from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, has developed a new type of oral capsule that could allow for pain-free delivery of protein drugs, including insulin.

Protein drugs are difficult to deliver orally, as they quickly degrade in the stomach. The new capsule has a special coating that prevents it from breaking down in the stomach's low pH environment before it dissolves in the small intestine. The insulin is packaged inside a fatty nanomaterial within the capsule to help it cross the intestinal walls. 

The team tested the capsule with both fast-acting and slow-acting insulin in a pre-clinical study (published in the international journal Biomaterials Advances) and found good absorption results for the slow-acting form, about 50% sounder than injection delivery for the same dose of insulin. The capsule also achieved good absorption results for fast-acting insulin, but it lagged markedly in the insulin-taking effect compared with injection delivery, likely making it less practical.

According to Dr. Céline Valéry, a pharmaceutical scientist from RMIT University and co-author of the study, "Numerous research studies employ oral formulations with significantly higher insulin quantities to achieve the same reaction as injection delivery, which is not a cost-efficient approach for administering expensive protein medications, such as insulin."

Adding to their achievement, Co-lead researcher Professor Charlotte Conn said, "Our study shows promising results for using these oral capsules for slow-acting insulin, which diabetics could take along with the fast-acting insulin injections." She further added, "We can also employ this technology to deliver other protein drugs orally, including a new type of oral antibiotic developed by the RMIT team that can bypass resistance to hazardous superbugs. Further, we have also filed an international patent application for our technology."

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