In a new study, researchers have developed a way to boost the effectiveness of the insulin injections people with diabetes routinely take to control their blood sugar.
The research was conducted by a team at Stanford University.
The advance might enable patients with diabetes to take a double-acting shot that contains insulin in combination with a drug based on a second hormone, known as amylin.
Amylin plays a synergistic role with insulin to control blood sugar levels after eating in a way that is more effective than insulin alone and mimics what occurs naturally with a meal.
While the amylin-based drug is already commercially available, it is estimated that less than 1% of patients with diabetes taking insulin therapy also take this complementary treatment because the two hormones—which work together seamlessly in the body—are too unstable to coexist in the same syringe.
The team says taking that second injection with the insulin shot is a real barrier for most patients.
Their formulation would allow them to be given together in a single injection or in an insulin pump.
The new technique involves a protective coating that wraps around insulin and amylin molecules and, for the first time, allows them to coexist in a single shot.
This coating dissolves in the bloodstream, enabling these two important hormones to work together in a way that mimics how they function in healthy individuals.
So far, the researchers have tested the wrapper’s stability in the laboratory, and done preliminary experiments to see how their two-in-one injection works on the most advanced preclinical model—diabetic pigs.
But, because both drugs are already on the market and the dual-drug formulation was tested in advanced models, the team need only demonstrate that their technique is nontoxic in humans to start trials in people, bringing this technology closer to market than most early-stage drugs.
The researchers hope this approach could, one day, dramatically increase the use of amylin and lead to improved glucose management for the estimated 450 million people worldwide with either juvenile (type 1) diabetes or adult-onset (type 2) diabetes.
One author of the study is materials scientist Eric Appel.
The study is published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
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