Could insulin come in a pill? How a molecule that mimics insulin may advance diabetes research

WEHI researchers in Melbourne have answered a 100-year-old question in diabetes research: can a molecule different to insulin have the same effect? The findings provide important insights for the future development of an oral insulin pill.

The research team has visualised how a non-insulin molecule can mimic the role of insulin, a key hormone needed to control blood sugar levels.

The WEHI-led study opens new avenues for the development of drugs that could replace daily insulin injections for people with type 1 diabetes.

At a glance

  • Researchers have visualised precisely how an insulin-mimicking molecule reproduces the activity of insulin to regulate blood glucose levels
  • Study answers a century-old question of whether it is possible to replace insulin
  • Findings illuminate new opportunities for the development of oral insulin mimetics that may replace daily injections by type 1 diabetics

People with type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin and require multiple daily insulin injections to keep their blood glucose levels in check.

The new research confirms that alternative molecules can be used to turn on blood glucose uptake, bypassing the need for insulin altogether.

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