A shot in the arm of NIPER team: An insulin pill

As of now, around 29 crore diabetic patients worldwide get painful jabs by way of the present treatment for Type 1 diabetes. All that could change if the experiment performed on diabetic rats is transferred suitably to humans.

A team of scientists from National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) has come up with a potentially alternative way for diabetic treatment — an insulin pill. The pill is expected to be cheaper than the injection and more effective as well.

"Until 2011, India was considered the diabetic capital of the world when it was replaced by China. In India, Punjab is considered the diabetic capital. This is what motivated us to take up this research work," said Assistant Professor Sanyog Jain, whose research, done in collaboration with his student Ashish Aggarwal, was published in an international journal recently. Two other students, Harshat Harde and Kaushik Thanki, also contributed to the work.

According to Jain, until now, developing an insulin pill had been difficult because insulin is digested by the bodily enzymes before it can be absorbed into the blood. Moreover, insulin molecules are very large, and cannot be absorbed directly from the intestine into the blood. To counter these constraints, Jain used a "balloon-like" lipid (fat

molecules) to house the insulin molecules. This

way, the insulin was "protected" from the digestive enzymes and because the absorption mechanism of a lipid is different from a conventional molecule, the insulin molecules passed into the blood.

Jain, who earlier worked with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) before joining NIPER in 2008, said that he had already been approached by a few companies since his research was published.

"It could take around three to five years for the work to be put to commercial use because the research needs to be duplicated on human subjects, after which the industry will put it through clinical trials. Right now, only rats have shown positive results," he said.

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