A pill that may help the body create insulin and regulate blood glucose levels has received recent attention. Researchers at Cornell University have engineered a strain of lactobacillus, a common gut bacteria, to secrete a protein that makes the intestine, instead of the pancreas, produce insulin and have channeled these properties into a pill.
This pill acts as a probiotic and its bacteria can now secrete GLP-1, a protein that increases insulin sensitivity and decreases rates of hypoglycemia, among other helpful actions for diabetics. GLP-1 may also help reduce weight and systolic blood pressure. Before this study, GLP-1 could only be administered through injection, which proved to be ineffective for proper drug distribution in the body.
The researchers gave this engineered strain of probiotics to diabetic rats for 90 days. These rats showed a decrease in high blood glucose, a characteristic of diabetes, of up to 30 percent.
The rats also showed a conversion of the upper intestinal epithelial cells into cells that behaved similarly to pancreatic beta cells, which control blood glucose levels and secrete insulin to stabilize glucose in healthy individuals. In those with diabetes, these insulin secretion and glucose regulating processes are broken.
“It’s moving the center of glucose control from the pancreas to the upper intestine,” said John March, professor of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University and the study’s senior author.
March also said that more tests will be performed with higher doses to see if a complete treatment is achievable.
BioPancreate, the company behind the study, is working to get this probiotic therapy into production for human use.
Diabetic patients most likely would take the pill every morning to help regulate their insulin production, glucose control and overall diabetes care throughout the day. This could possibly replace the injection of insulin multiple times a day for some diabetics.
So be on the lookout for this probiotic pill and ask your healthcare provider if it’s right for you.