Researchers Develop Swallowable Device that Injects Insulin Painlessly

For many people with diabetes, living with the disease requires multiple needle sticks a day to inject insulin and control their blood sugar. But in the future, diabetics might be able to take their insulin in pill-form. Two groups of researchers are working to make this possible in the future.

The groups, from MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have developed an insulin delivery system that still uses a needle, but it’s so small that it can be swallowed, pain-free.

The pea-sized device contains a spring that injects a tiny dart of solid insulin into the wall of the stomach, according to Carlo Giovanni Traverso, an associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Traverso said:

“We chose the stomach as the site of delivery because we recognized that the stomach is a thick and robust part of the GI tract.”

Once the device reaches the stomach, the humidity there allows the spring to launch the insulin dart. If the idea makes you cringe, you can relax; it doesn’t hurt, thanks to the lack of pain receptors in the stomach. Once the injection has occurred, the needle breaks down in the digestive tract. [1] [2]

The self-righting capsule orients itself inside the stomach and ejects a tiny dart of solid insulin that’s about a quarter of an inch long. Source: Ania Hupalowska, Alex Abramson, Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Science

That all sounded good, in theory, but the researchers had to overcome the issue of getting the device to orient itself in such a way that it injected the insulin directly into the stomach. If you swallow a pill, you don’t have much control over which direction it lands once it’s in the body. [1]

Fortunately, nature provided the solution.

Traverso explained:

“Leopard tortoises happened to have evolved a way of doing this.”

MIT wrote in the journal Science: [2]

“The researchers drew their inspiration for the self-orientation feature from a tortoise known as the leopard tortoise. This tortoise, which is found in Africa, has a shell with a high, steep dome, allowing it to right itself if it rolls onto its back. The researchers used computer modeling to come up with a variant of this shape for their capsule, which allows it to reorient itself even in the dynamic environment of the stomach.”

Do you remember Weebles – those toys from your childhood that “wobble but they don’t fall down”? Those, too, provided inspiration for how to properly orient the device in the body. [1]

The researchers said in the journal Science that they’ve tested the insulin-delivery device on pigs, where it successfully injects a therapeutic dose of insulin provided the pig has an empty stomach.

Both teams of researchers have partnered with the global healthcare company Novo Nordisk to prepare the device for use in humans. It could be ready for human testing in a few years.

Sources:

[1] NPR

[2] TechCrunch

Is Metformin a Viable Anti-Aging Solution?

If you’re a longevity enthusiast, I’ve got some news for you. After all of these years, aging itself is on its way to be officially classified as a disease. Of course, it’s taken decades of improving life expectancy and survival rates due to better living standards and lifestyles, but it is most likely worth the wait.

Why?

This could mean that antiaging will be taken more seriously by the health industry and society as a whole, including insurance companies. It may also raise the value of prevention, instead of just waiting for health problems to appear or reach a certain level of severity before treatment.

So, What Happened Exactly?

Two years ago, researchers managed to convince the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a human lifespan study of metformin, which is currently used for blood sugar control. But it may end up being the first drug approved specifically to ‘treat’ aging.

The study, known as the TAME Study (Targeting Aging With Metformin) started up in 2016, aiming to enroll 3,000 people aged 70-80 and study the effects of metformin over 5-7 years. Everyone must be at risk of or have one or more of the following: cancer, heart disease, or dementia. If metformin can delay or prevent these and delay death, the next step is to test it in younger people.

But why Metformin?

High blood sugar and insulin resistance are key factors in aging and other complex, chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. But this is not the only way that metformin could fight aging. Metformin works by acting on an enzyme called AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase), which regulates how cells process energy.

AMPK boosts metabolism, which may aid weight loss by burning more sugar and fat; it improves blood flow and body composition; it aids cell detoxification and renewal; and it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effects.

On the other hand, unaddressed aging results in slowing metabolism and weight gain; muscle loss; poor circulation and detoxification, and a vicious cycle of inflammation.

Is Metformin Really the Best Solution to Aging?

Unfortunately, no. Aging is a complex ‘disease’ involving chronic inflammation, so health and longevity promoting strategies that target the whole person are likely to be far more effective. As it is multifactorial, focusing on one aspect of it is probably not the best strategy, as other complex, chronic diseases do not respond to this method.

Metformin is not without side effects, either. It has a black box warning for the rare-but-dangerous side effect of lactic acidosis, which is especially problematic in reduced kidney function. It may also be pro-inflammatory and increase production of beta-amyloid protein, which gets tangled in brain tissue as it accumulates and causes the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. If you want to use pharmaceutical drugs, aspirin is an anti-inflammatory AMPK activator.

So What Can We Do to Fight Aging?

There are natural antiaging therapies which also activate AMPK, without the side effects.

  • Intermittent fasting, where food intake is confined to 8-12 hours of the day, has been shown to promote longevity and fight age-related diseases.
  • Exercise not only keeps the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems strong, but also activates AMPK, especially in high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
  • Cold water immersion, especially after exercise, also enhances AMPK.
  • There are also herbal remedies that can activate AMPK, such as Gynostemma pentaphyllum (Southern Ginseng). One human study involving diabetic patients found that this herb reduced haemoglobin A1c ten-fold, which measures the rate of glycation (a very pro-aging process). It also decreased insulin resistance by three-fold and did not cause dangerously low blood sugar. It has been used as a pro-longevity herb in some Chinese circles for hundreds of years, but only now do we know exactly how it works and how to best use it.

Read: 5 Anti-Aging Herbs to Slow the Aging Process

While metformin may be a promising treatment for aging, there are natural alternatives that could be far superior.

Sources:

GreenMedInfo

LifeExtension

Cell

Pubmed/27607453

Pubmed/4613459


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