‘Needle-free’: UBC develops oral insulin drops for diabetes patients

Click to play video: 'UBC oral insulin drops could change diabetes medication'
UBC oral insulin drops could change diabetes medication
WATCH: UBC researchers say they've developed needle-free, pain-free way for people with diabetes to take their insulin. Aaron McArthur reports on the product that's showing promise – Jun 5, 2024

University of British Columbia researchers and scientists have created a new delivery system that could drastically change how diabetes patients receive insulin.

Researchers at UBC’s Li Lab have developed oral insulin drops that are placed under the tongue to be absorbed into the body, which could replace the need for insulin injections.

“My lab has been working on needle-free insulin alternatives these past three years,” professor Shyh-Dar Li said, with UBC Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“We tried nasal sprays before landing on oral drops, which are easy and convenient. Hopefully, the oral drops open up a new possibility for diabetes patients, making it easier to take their medications and regulate their blood glucose to maintain their health in the long run.”

The drops contain a mixture of insulin and a unique cell-penetrating peptide developed by Li and colleagues.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Homeless senior faces agonizing choice between housing or medication'
Homeless senior faces agonizing choice between housing or medication

“Insulin is a complicated molecule. In pill form, it’s easily destroyed in the stomach,” Li said.

The latest health and medical news emailed to you every Sunday.

“Insulin also needs to be rapidly available in the blood, but as a large molecule, it cannot get through cells easily on its own.”

The peptide, sourced from fish byproducts, opens a pathway for insulin to cross over.

UBC said preclinical tests showed that with the peptide, insulin effectively reaches the bloodstream.

Without the peptide, insulin remains stuck in the inside lining of the mouth.

“Think of it as a guide that helps insulin navigate through a maze to reach the bloodstream quickly. This guide finds the best routes, making it easier for insulin to get where it needs to go,” said Jiamin Wu, a postdoctoral researcher in the Li Lab.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'B.C. diabetes patients await Pharmacare details'
B.C. diabetes patients await Pharmacare details

People without diabetes get their insulin naturally from the pancreas to regulate glucose after a meal.

Diabetes patients cannot produce sufficient insulin and need to get it from an outside source.

Unregulated glucose can be very dangerous, meaning diabetes patients must monitor glucose levels and take insulin to lower them when necessary.

Injections are the fastest way to get insulin into the blood but patients typically need at least three to four injections per day.

Li said the team is hoping to achieve rapid, pain-free delivery of insulin without significant side effects.

The new needle-free technology is expected to reduce the risk of cross-contamination, needle pricks, accidental infections and unsafe disposal of contaminated needles.


Sponsored content