Insulin "capsules" may ultimately replace daily injections for diabetics


December 20, 2013

Orally-ingested insulin layersomes could eventually replace injections 
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Orally-ingested insulin layersomes could eventually replace injections (Photo: Shutterstock)

Help could be on the way for the hundreds of millions of diabetics who are tired of giving themselves daily insulin injections. Scientists from India's National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research have recently had success in orally delivering insulin to rats' bloodstreams.

There are two main reasons that diabetics aren't already just taking insulin pills – digestive enzymes break insulin down before it can be taken up by the body, plus it's difficult for insulin to enter the bloodstream from the gut.

In order to protect the insulin from the enzymes, the researchers started by packaging it in liposomes – tiny man-made hollow spheres composed of lipids (in this case, those lipids were fat molecules). The liposomes were then coated with layers of protective polyelectrolytes, becoming what are referred to as "layersomes."

The scientists subsequently also attached folic acid to each sphere, as previous studies had shown that it allows liposomes to be absorbed through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream.

When the finished layersomes were given to rats orally, they lowered the animals' blood glucose levels by almost the same amount as injected insulin. What's more, the effect lasted longer.

A paper on the research, which was led by Dr. Sanyog Jain, was recently published in the journal Biomacromolecules. Scientists in North Carolina are also developing an alternative to daily insulin injections, although they're exploring the use of pulsed ultrasound.

Source: American Chemical Society

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

If only they could make the coating only break down in the presence of elevated blood sugar levels.


I couldn't agree more with Wes. This is not solving a big enough issue for diabetics who are already comfortable with shots. Yeah, there are needle-phobic diabetics but I suspect it's an extreme minority. Glucose activated that is novel.


As above: if only the insulin activity was regulated by blood glucose concentration.

It irritates me, as a T1D of 30 years, when research is directed towards something that seems to miss the point.

After the first 10,000 injections or so, I have no problem with INJECTING insulin... that's the least of my concerns. It's the REGULATING / TIMING / DOSAGE, etc. that is the real problem.

There are some very good new truly 'long acting' and 'rapid/short acting' insulins now available.

There are patents for glucose-activated insulins that would be of immense benefit.

Further, the inclusion of amylin, C-peptide and other B-cell products would also of greater benefit.

Always a bit disappointing when a new treatment is touted but of no real improvement, and not even yet tested in humans.

Now, a glucose-activated insulin in pill form... :)

Wes Black
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