News Release 

New research aims to improve oral delivery of insulin

Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research

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IMAGE: Dr. Cao of Wayne State University aims to develop a mechanism for a novel insulin delivery system to help improve the lives of patients with diabetes. view more 

Credit: Wayne State University

DETROIT - Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin -- a hormone that regulates blood sugar-- or the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. According to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, the disease is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States, with an estimated 30.3 million people currently with diabetes.

Oral insulin is potentially prescribed to patients diagnosed with diabetes to improve their quality of life. However, current oral protein formulations of insulin face multiple obstacles during their gastrointestinal transport and absorption, resulting in lower therapeutic benefits. This includes difficulty penetrating the intestinal mucus layer and the epithelial cell layer to reach the blood. While scientists have made improvements in mucus-penetrating and absorption-enhancing technologies, current oral doses of protein drugs to treat diabetes remains low in absorption and bioavailability, and can increase the risk of leaky gut, autoimmune disease, bacterial infections and inflammatory bowel diseases.

Therefore, there is an urgent need for a safe and efficient oral delivery technology that will enhance protein transport, and to increase oral insulin with high bioavailability. With the help of a $1.7 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, a team of researchers in Wayne State's College of Engineering will explore ways to address these issues.

"The goal of our project is to develop a highly promising oral insulin that will be a life-changing treatment for diabetes patients," said Zhiqiang Cao, Ph.D., associate professor of chemical engineering and materials science, and graduate program director in the College of Engineering at Wayne State University. "We also hope to develop knowledge of how our delivery platform can address multiple barriers for oral protein delivery above and beyond insulin. This will have the potential to impact and enhance a broad range of oral protein drugs."

Cao and his collaborators will aim to develop a mechanism for a novel insulin delivery system that effectively address the above issues.

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The grant number for this award, "A Novel Oral Insulin Enabling Safe and Efficient Gastrointestinal Transport and Absorption," is DK123293-01.

About Wayne State University

Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit research.wayne.edu.

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