Insulin pills, also known as insulin tablets, remain at an early stage of clinical trials with several companies racing to establish this as a credible alternative to insulin injections.

Giving diabetes patients the chance to avoid the pain of needles has been the goal of many pharmaceutical companies for many years.

However, a drugmaker has yet to success in encapsulating insulin into a one-off dose, easily swallowed like any other tablet.

Difficult to ingest

Insulin is a particularly difficult drug to ingest orally

It is a protein that degrades in the stomach and small intestine, making it almost impossible to design oral delivery which works.

The past has seen massive oral insulin efforts flop, including the inhalable insulin Exubera.

However, major drugmakers are thought to be working on the insulin pill, Novo Nordisk amongst them.

Direct to the liver

The theory is ideal for people with diabetes. Insulin delivery via the stomach would transport the much needed hormone directly to the liver, where it could mimic the action of endogenous insulin.

In fact, the future could see insulin pills making diabetes management considerably more safe and convenient, not to mention eliminating prevalent needle phobia.

At this stage, insulin remains too complex a protein to survive within the environment of the body. Leading pharmaceutical companies are thought to be using protein engineering to bring the insulin pull one step closer.

The researchers are thought to be indentifying which enzymes attack the molecule, and what processes they use. In theory the insulin pill will one day be able to navigate the stomach without being broken down.

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