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B.C. researchers tout promising progress on oral insulin tablets

UBC researcher Yigong Guo holds an oral insulin tablet that is currently being tested (Credit: UBC/Karen Lee) UBC researcher Yigong Guo holds an oral insulin tablet that is currently being tested (Credit: UBC/Karen Lee)

A team of researchers at the University of British Columbia is developing something they say could be a game-changer for people living with diabetes.

Led by Dr. Anubhav Pratap-Singh, the team has made progress on an oral insulin tablet they think could replace injections – which more than 300,000 Canadians require multiple times every day. Pratap-Singh's father is one of them, which is why he says he was motivated to pursue this research.

Although the tablet has not yet been tested on humans, a news release from the university says the results from a recent trial on rats shows promising potential.

"These exciting results show that we are on the right track in developing an insulin formulation that will no longer need to be injected before every meal, improving the quality of life, as well as mental health, of more than nine million Type 1 diabetics around the world,” Pratap-Singh writes.

In previous trials, the insulin accumulated in the rats stomachs. In the latest trial, nearly 100 per cent of the drug reached its "ideal target" – the liver, according to the researchers.

These particular tablets are designed to dissolve when placed between a person's gum and cheek and to fully release insulin within half an hour, the same amount of time as a typical injection.

The team credits this mode of delivery with the tablet's success.

"When it comes to insulin delivery, injections are not the most comfortable or convenient for diabetes patients. But with several other oral insulin alternatives also being tested and developed, the UBC team worked to solve where and how to facilitate a higher absorption rate," according to the media release.

"It delivered all the insulin to the liver without wasting or decomposing any insulin along the way."

Human trials, Pratap-Singh says, will require more time and funding. However, he says the benefits of replacing injections with an oral tablet could be far-reaching. For diabetics, the cost would be lower and transportation would be simpler because the tablets do not need to be kept cool like injectable insulin does. Beyond that, waste from needles and syringes would be eliminated. Top Stories

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