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News

Diabetes researchers testing inhaled form of insulin

Washington University In St Louis : 12 January, 2000  (Technical Article)
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine are studying an investigational treatment for diabetes using insulin that is inhaled rather than injected. The researchers are testing inhaled insulin therapy in three groups of patients. One study will involve people with Type I, or insulin-dependent diabetes.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine are studying an investigational treatment for diabetes using insulin that is inhaled rather than injected. The researchers are testing inhaled insulin therapy in three groups of patients. One study will involve people with Type I, or insulin-dependent diabetes. A second study is recruiting patients with Type II, or adult-onset diabetes, who take insulin injections to control their blood glucose. A third study is for patients with Type II diabetes who are not yet taking insulin or any drugs to control their glucose levels.

Participants will be selected randomly to either remain on standard diabetes therapy or to switch to the investigational inhaled insulin. The study lasts six months. At the conclusion of that time period, patients on standard therapy will have the option to switch to inhaled insulin.

'The investigational insulin is in the form of a powder,' explains Janet B. McGill, M.D., associate professor of medicine and a principal investigator in the studies. 'Patients use a device that allows them to inhale the powder into their lungs, and the insulin then will pass from the lungs into the bloodstream.'

Tiny air sacs line the lungs, and past research has shown that insulin can cross the fine membrane that separates those air sacs from blood vessels. McGill believes if reliable, consistent doses of insulin can move from the lungs into the bloodstream, inhaling insulin may be an improvement over insulin injections. Currently, insulin cannot be given in pill form because it cannot pass through the gut.

'Even if inhaled insulin works, this therapy will not replace all insulin injections,' McGill said. 'While it will allow patients to inhale this short-acting insulin before meals, they still will require an injection of a longer-acting insulin at bedtime.'
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