Scientists in Melbourne have designed a new type of oral capsule that could mean pain-free delivery of insulin and other protein drugs.
Co-principal investigator Professor Charlotte Conn, a biophysical chemist from RMIT University, explained that administering protein medications orally has been difficult due to their rapid degradation in the stomach, but that has changed.
"According to Conn, from RMIT's School of Science, drugs of this kind are generally given through injections. This implies that numerous diabetics in Australia have to receive insulin injections multiple times daily, which can be uncomfortable for the patient and lead to increased healthcare expenses."
The individual mentioned that the recently developed technology has the potential to deliver alternative protein-based medications through oral means. This could encompass a fresh kind of oral antibiotic created by the RMIT group, which has the ability to evade dangerous superbugs' resistance.
Conn stated that additional protein-based medications, like monoclonal antibodies, have been formulated to address inflammatory ailments, cancer, and other illnesses. These drugs are expected to have a market value of approximately $400 billion by the year 2030.
An international patent application has been filed for RMIT’s technology.
The group has conducted a pre-clinical examination on the novel oral capsule utilizing insulin, and the findings have been published in the international periodical Biomaterials Advances.
Conn remarked that the outcomes are highly promising, and the team is currently carrying out a series of pre-clinical trials to expedite the transition to clinical testing.
The research paper assessed the performance of the oral capsules with both fast-acting and slow-acting insulin.
“When controlling the blood-sugar, you need a very fast response if you’re eating a meal. That’s known as fast-acting insulin,” Conn said.
A gradual-acting variation has an effect over a considerably longer duration, extending up to a day or so, to maintain a consistent level of insulin in the body. The majority of diabetics consume a mixture of both rapid-acting and slow-acting insulin.
Conn stated that they obtained exceptional absorption outcomes for the gradual-acting variation, around 50% more effective compared to administering the same amount of insulin through injections.
The oral capsule demonstrated satisfactory absorption results for rapid-acting insulin. However, due to the substantial delay in the onset of insulin's effects in comparison to administering insulin via injections, the oral capsule may be less practical.
Conn affirmed that their findings indicate that the use of these oral capsules for gradual-acting insulin is highly promising. This could enable diabetics to consume them along with rapid-acting insulin injections in the future.
Conn suggested that the oral capsules could conceivably be configured to enable dosing at specific intervals, similar to insulin injections. However, further research is required to devise a method of achieving this and to undertake thorough testing during subsequent human trials.
Dr. Jamie Strachan, the primary author of the paper, explained that the capsule safeguarded the medication inside, allowing it to pass through the stomach and into the small intestine without any damage.
Strachan, from RMIT's School of Science, added that the capsule features a distinctive coating that is specifically engineered to resist disintegration in the acidic environment of the stomach. Once the capsule enters the small intestine and reaches higher pH levels, the coating dissolves, prompting the capsule to disintegrate.
The insulin is encapsulated in a fatty nanomaterial within the capsule, which aids in concealing the insulin's presence and enables it to traverse the intestinal walls.
The approach used in the oral insulin capsule is comparable to how the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines operate. In those vaccines, the mRNA is likewise encapsulated within fats, which serves to maintain the drugs' potency and safety during transport in the body.
The COVID vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA, which is comparable to DNA, to safely convey the information for producing a viral protein within the body. This activates the immune system and helps the body build immunity against the virus.
Dr. Céline Valéry, a pharmaceutical scientist and co-author of the study from RMIT, mentioned that they utilized the same amount of insulin in both the oral capsules and the injection delivery methods.
Valéry, from RMIT's School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, noted that in numerous pre-clinical studies, oral formulations usually necessitate significantly higher insulin levels to attain the same effect as injection delivery. This approach is not very cost-effective since protein drugs, which are generally expensive, are being administered in larger quantities.
Valéry also added that although the results from the study are promising, further trials are required to devise an alternative, painless method for administering insulin and other protein drugs. (PB/Newswise)