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diabetes management breakthrough: New Sublingual Drops Instead of Injections


In a breakthrough for diabetes management, scientists have developed a needle-free alternative to injections: oral insulin drops, also known as sublingual drops. Placed under the tongue, these drops offer a pain-free way for the body to absorb insulin quickly and efficiently. This innovation could significantly improve the lives of millions struggling with diabetes.

The scientists from the Laboratory of Targeted Drug Delivery and Nanomedicine (Li Lab) at the University of British Columbia (UBC) who developed these drops said they could replace the need for painful injections and make it easier for people with diabetes to manage their health.

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Sublingual drops are a type of medication that is administered under the tongue. They work by allowing the medication to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the mucous membranes in the mouth. This can be a more effective way to deliver medication than taking it by mouth, as it bypasses the digestive system.

The drops contain a mixture of insulin and a unique cell-penetrating peptide (CPP) developed by Dr. Shyh-Dar Li and colleagues.

“Insulin is a complicated molecule,” explains lead researcher Dr.Jiamin Li, a professor in the faculty of pharmaceutical sciences at UBC. “In pill form, it’s easily destroyed in the stomach. 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.

Healthy people 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.

Uncontrolled blood sugar wreaks havoc on the body. For diabetics, this means constant vigilance – monitoring glucose levels and injecting insulin to keep them in check. While injections are the fastest way to deliver insulin, the need for multiple daily jabs (often 3-4) can be a major burden on quality of life. This strict regimen is difficult to maintain, and lapses can lead to devastating consequences. Over time, uncontrolled blood sugar can damage eyes, kidneys, and nerves, potentially even resulting in amputations.

Pre-clinical tests showed that insulin with the peptide effectively reaches the bloodstream whereas 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 Dr. Wu, a postdoctoral researcher in the Li Lab.



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