Perth researchers have been awarded new West Australian funding to launch a pilot study into the use of oral insulin in type 1 diabetes – a medication intervention that could be a game-changer for those with the chronic condition.
Dr Mary Abraham from the Telethon Kids Institute and Perth Children’s Hospital has secured $60,000 thanks to charity Diabetes Research WA’s 2022 Diabetes Research Grants program to undertake the trial.
Dr Abraham said oral insulin had so far predominantly been tested in those with type 2 diabetes.
“Insulin injections or insulin pump therapy are the cornerstone of type 1 diabetes treatment but still most people remain unable to achieve optimal blood glucose levels, so there’s a very real need to improve on treatment,” she explained.
“Oral insulin also offers the hope of reducing the risk of blood sugar levels falling dangerously low in people with diabetes, and it may also help to minimise weight gain that can be an issue with subcutaneous insulin because it causes high insulin levels in the body.
“Of course, it also would be wonderful for people with diabetes to have a non-invasive insulin. It is also believed oral insulin may reduce the long-term risk of diabetes-related vascular complications, as well as possibly restore beta cell function.”
Dr Abraham said the 12-week study aimed to see if oral insulin could be used alongside injected insulin.
“The success of oral insulin has so far been limited due to absorption issues but we’ll be trialling an improved oral drug delivery system that has been designed to overcome this challenge,” she said.
“Even if it can be used to reduce the amount of insulin that needs to be injected by people with type 1 diabetes or mean they require less total insulin, they would be very welcome breakthroughs.
Diabetes Research WA executive director Sherl Westlund said she was thrilled to fund this important work, which researchers hope will pave the way for a larger clinical trial.
“Being able to take insulin orally, rather than inject it, would go a long way towards reducing the lifetime burden of type 1 diabetes and improve quality of life for so many.”