Those painful jabs of insulin to check diabetes may soon become a thing of the past, for a British company has developed a form of the protein that can be taken orally.
Scientists at Diabetology, a small research and development company that has spent may years trying to develop oral insulin, believe that it will better control of symptoms.
The company has successfully enclosed the insulin in a capsule that prevents it from being digested by stomach acids, and carries it intact into the small intestine.
Once the capsule has reached the small intestine, it is dissolved and releases a mixture of insulin and other materials that enhance the absorption of the insulin through the intestinal wall. Thereafter, the insulin is transported to the liver, where it creates a store that can be drawn on by the body.
The researchers say that the mechanism by which the capsule carries insulin into the body approximates the behaviour of the pancreas, the source of insulin in healthy people that releases it as it is needed.
Diabetology has already carried out a small trial of 16 patients with type 2 diabetes, the commoner type that usually develops in middle age, led by Cardiff University Professor David Owens.
Dr Steve Luzio, another researcher at the university, is to present the results of the trial at the American Diabetes Association meeting in Chicago.
Although the details of his presentation have not been revealed, it is believed that he may announce that the oral dose taken twice daily before breakfast and before dinner, controlled glucose levels successfully in the patients treated.
Glen Travers, the Executive Chairman of Diabetology, hopes that the product will enable better control of the disease to be achieved, without the increased risk of heart attack that has been linked to the widely used diabetes drug rosiglitazone.