New two-in-one injection promises diabetics better blood sugar control

Researchers from Stanford University have developed a breakthrough technique that combines two diabetes drugs into a single injection. Previously these two compounds required separate injections, creating a barrier for treatment that led to very few diabetics embracing the novel therapy.

The same pancreatic beta cells that effectively produce insulin in non-diabetic people, also secrete a hormone called amylin. This molecule plays a key role in endogenous glycemic regulation, and over the past couple of decades scientists have developed a novel amylin analog, called pramlintide, to help treat diabetics.

Many patients with either type one or type two diabetes are probably familiar with the regular insulin injections necessary to control their blood sugar levels. Although studies have clearly shown a dual insulin/amylin treatment is far more effective at controlling blood sugar levels in diabetics than insulin alone, little more than one percent of patients have taken up the new therapy.

According to Stanford University material scientist Eric Appel, a big factor in the low uptake of this beneficial dual therapy is due to the need for amylin to be administered as a second injection separate to insulin because the two molecules don’t play well together and are unstable when mixed. So Appel and his team set out to develop a stable way to combine those two molecules.

“Taking that second injection with the insulin shot is a real barrier for most patients,” says Appel, senior author on the new study. “Our formulation would allow them to be given together in a single injection or in an insulin pump.”

The novel formulation developed by the researchers involves a molecular wrapper made out of polyethylene glycol, engineered to selectively bind to amylin and insulin molecules. This protective element shields the two compounds until they are injected into a body, at which point they unbind from the wrapper and function as normal.

“This coating dissolves in the bloodstream, enabling these two important hormones to work together in a way that mimics how they function in healthy individuals,” explains Appel.

The formulation has been tested on animal models and shown to be effective in mimicking the body’s endogenous co-secretions of these two important hormones. The formulation has also been found to be stable for over 100 hours, meaning it could be effectively stored and administered by an implanted insulin pump.

As both insulin and pramlintide are already approved medications, the researchers suggest this novel formulation should move through human trial processes relatively quickly. The next step is to investigate the toxicity of the technique in humans before it begins moving to market.

The new study was published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Source: Stanford University

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