CHICAGO -- Purdue University scientists believe they've found a way to make insulin for diabetics available in pills instead of daily shots.
The breakthrough is a new acrylic-based, gel-like coating on the pills to improve the body's absorption of insulin.
Injections under the skin allow insulin to be absorbed slowly enough to control blood sugar levels. But efforts to control diabetes with insulin pills have failed because the body digests them much too quickly.
The new product, so far tested only in diabetic rats and dogs, "can potentially overcome these barriers," said researcher Nicholas Peppas, a professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at Purdue.
The material he developed with graduate student Aaron Foss would allow pills to survive the harsh digestive acids in the stomach, and let insulin seep into the bloodstream through the small intestine, the researchers said.
Their research was among reports on Sunday's agenda at the start of the American Chemical Society's five-day national meeting in Chicago.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps convert foods, including sugar into energy. In diabetes, affecting about 16 million Americans, the body is unable to produce or properly use insulin, resulting in too much sugar in the blood. Some diabetics inject themselves daily with insulin to help regulate blood sugar levels, but the shots can be painful, inconvenient and costly.
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