Once a month shot for type 2 diabetes in the works that is also cheap

Duke Researchers are working on a new type 2 diabetes injection that could last a month

Anyone diagnosed with type 2 diabetes know it isn’t easy to manage blood sugar control. One of the barriers is the constant need for monitoring blood sugar and giving injections in the morning and evening - and for some, even more often.

Now there is a drug in development that means one injection that could last for 14-days. The implication is more freedom from the burdensome act of carrying around insulin.

Biomedical engineers at Duke University have developed a  technology that could replace daily and even weekly insulin injections for type 2 diabetes treatment.

What if you only needed insulin once a month?

The insulin is combined with a biopolymer that  keeps insulin circulating in the body for a longer period of time than what is currently on the market. The development could mean insulin injections could be given just once or twice a month, which could be life-changing for those trying to manage type-2 diabetes.

Current therapies that target insulin signaling molecules only last a short time and clear the body quickly, researchers explain.

After a longer period of use, even weekly injections fail to control blood sugars, making the Duke researcher’s innovation unique.

How they did it

GLP-1 is a molecule that ‘tells’ the pancreas when to secrete insulin to lower blood sugar levels.

The Duke researchers created a technique that fuses GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide) to another heat sensitive peptide in a solution that is injected like any insulin.

As the solution heats with body temperature it forms a gel that is stored and then slowly released, lasting 3-times longer than current type 2 diabetes injectables.

Ashutosh Chilkoti, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Duke University and a senior author of the paper said it took some tweaking to design the polymer that fuses GLP-1 to peptide for slow release - called elastin-like polypeptide (ELP).

"By doing so, we managed to triple the duration of this short-acting drug for type 2 diabetes, outperforming other competing designs."

The researchers say the injection initially controlled glucose levels in mice for up to ten days. With a little more work they tested the insulin on rhesus monkeys and the glucose control persisted for 14-days.

Kelli Luginbuhl, a PhD student in the Chilkoti lab and co-author of the study said in a media release: "Because our metabolism is slower than monkeys and mice, the treatment should theoretically last even longer in humans, so our hope is that this will be the first bi-weekly or once-a-month formulation for people with type 2 diabetes."

One final word of hope. We all know new drugs can be costly and for  many, unattainable. The insulin still needs more testing, but  if it passes muster, it  will be cheap and easy to produce. The finding is published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

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