This material a polymer with a gel-like consistency could offer an alternative to daily injections, says the studys principal researcher, Aaron C. Foss, a graduate student at Purdue University. He carried out his research under the guidance of Nicholas A. Peppas, Sc.D., a professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at the university.
The research group is using a polymer matrix that protects the insulin until it reaches the small intestine where it can be absorbed into the blood without being destroyed along the way by harsh acids in the mouth, throat and stomach. Other attempts to deliver insulin by mouth have resulted in minimal amounts of the insulin making it to the blood. Peppas says his groups system can potentially overcome these barriers.
The less acidic environment of the small intestine allows the polymer to swell and release the insulin, explains Foss. Moreover, the polymer intercepts calcium, which the wall of the small intestine needs to keep the pores in the walls tightly sealed. Once the pores open up, the insulin can slip through to the bloodstream.
People with some types of diabetes either lack insulin or produce insulin that doesnt work efficiently enough to control their blood sugar. Some of these people must give themselves three injections a day to control their diabetes. Because the injections are painful, however, people who feel well will sometimes skip their shots.
To avoid the stress of needles, some researchers are working on insulin that can be delivered to the blood through the lungs using something akin to an inhaler. But the effectiveness of this approach remains unclear.
Preliminary results of the Purdue polymer material on roughly 150 rats and dogs show t