Study: Oral Insulin Absorption Rate Is as Effective as Injected Insulin

Investigators report that they have seen nearly 100% of the hormone from their tablets going straight into the liver of rats.

Investigators from the University of British Columbia found that insulin from their latest version of oral tablets was absorbed by rats the same way that injected insulin is.

“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 9 million [individuals with type 1 diabetes] around the world,” Anubhav Pratap-Singh, PhD, assistant professor of food processing at the faculty of land and food systems at the university, said in a statement.

Investigators reported that they have seen nearly 100% of the insulin from their tablets going straight into the liver. Previous attempts at developing a drinkable insulin would accumulate in the stomach.

Even after 2 hours, the investigators did not find any insulin in the stomachs of rats.

Injections are not the most comfortable or convenient method of medication for individuals with diabetes, so the investigators worked to solve how and where to facilitate a higher absorption rate.

They developed a different kind of oral tablet, which requires individuals to dissolve it between the cheek and gum instead of swallowing it.

The method uses the thin membrane found within the lining of the inner cheek and back of the lips, which is known as the buccal mucosa. This delivers all the insulin to the liver without decomposing or wasting it along the way.

“For injected insulin we usually need 100iu per shot. Other swallowed tablets being developed that go to the stomach might need 500iu of insulin, which is mostly wasted, and that’s a major problem we have been trying to work around,” Yigong Guo, a PhD candidate, said in the statement.

Additionally, the delivery of the oral tablet absorbs in about a half an hour and can last for 2 to 4 hours, investigators said.

Other oral insulin tablets in development release insulin slowly over 2 to 4 hours, while fast-release injected insulin fully releases in about 30 to 120 minutes.

Investigators said they require more collaborators, funding, and time before the study can continue into human trials.

However, they think that the tablet they are developing could be more accessible, cost-effective, and sustainable.

“More than 300,000 Canadians have to inject insulin multiple times per day,” Pratap-Singh said. “That is a lot of environmental waste from the needles and plastic from the syringe that might not be recycled and go to landfill, which wouldn’t be a problem with an oral tablet.”

The investigators hope that the oral medication can reduce the cost of insulin per dose, because their alternative is cheaper and easier to manufacture. Additionally, transporting the tablets would be easier for individuals with diabetes, who have to keep their medication cool.

The first part of the study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.


UBC team developing oral insulin tablet sees breakthrough results. News release. EurekAlert. August 30, 2022. Accessed August 30, 2022.

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