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Plant-Based Oral Insulin Delivery Shows Promise in Regulating Blood Sugar Levels, According to Study

A breakthrough in insulin delivery has been achieved through a plant-based, oral method developed by Henry Daniell from the School of Dental Medicine. This innovative approach offers potential advantages over current diabetes treatments, reducing the risk of hypoglycemia associated with insulin injections.

Henry Daniell is the vice chair and W.D. Miller Professor in the Department of Basic & Translational Sciences in Penn’s School of Dental Medicine. (Image: Kevin Monko)

The study, published in Biomaterials, highlights the creation of plant-based insulin containing all three peptides found in natural insulin. This oral delivery method involves the protection of insulin by plant cell walls during stomach transit and subsequent release and delivery to the liver via the gut-liver axis.

Clinical trials conducted on diabetic mice demonstrated that the plant-based insulin effectively regulated blood sugar levels within 15 minutes of ingestion, closely resembling the response of naturally secreted insulin. In contrast, mice treated with traditional insulin injections experienced rapid decreases in blood glucose levels, leading to temporary hypoglycemia.

Speaking on the findings, Henry Daniell, Vice Chair and W.D. Miller Professor in the Department of Basic & Translational Sciences at Penn's School of Dental Medicine, emphasized the reduced risk of hypoglycemia with oral insulin delivery. He stated, "Our insulin, given orally, has all three proteins and is delivered right to the liver. It works just like natural insulin, which minimizes the risk of hypoglycemia."

Daniell's previous research has focused on harnessing plant-grown proteins for medical applications, including the production of low-cost drugs from lettuce plants. The plant-based insulin is produced by introducing human insulin genes into lettuce seeds, resulting in insulin-rich lettuce that is freeze-dried, ground, and prepared for oral delivery.

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This innovative production method offers several advantages over traditional insulin production, eliminating the need for expensive laboratory equipment and providing a shelf-stable product at room temperature. Daniell emphasized the potential affordability and global accessibility of this plant-based delivery system, which could revolutionize diabetes treatment and improve access to superior medications.

Future studies will involve testing plant-based insulin in canine and human subjects. Daniell's commitment to affordability and global healthcare access fuels his work, aiming to transform the delivery of medicines and save lives.

The study received support from the National Institutes of Health, United States, and a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development.

For more information, please contact:

Henry Daniell

  • Vice Chair and W.D. Miller Professor
  • Department of Basic and Translational Sciences
  • University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine

Coauthors: Rahul Singh, Venkata Mangu, Smruti Nair, Geetanjali Wakade, Nataliya Balashova

Note: Henry Daniell holds patents in this field. Relevant information on patents and applications can be found online.

Author

Dr Rockson BDS, PgDM, DBM (Germany) & Awarded Content Marketeer of the year 2020 & Love telling story for brands.

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