When dealing with a disease such as diabetes, the patient's total compliance with therapy is an essential part of the therapy itself. In the case of type 1 diabetes, a condition of autoimmune origin caused by the inability of pancreatic cells to produce insulin (essential for the control of blood sugar) the injections of this necessary hormone are typically between two and four per day. Without it, in a few days we die: but it is a procedure, partly invasive, that many patients do not willingly accept.

For some time, other forms of administration have been studied that integrate insulin intake into lifestyle. But we haven't arrived at the "diabetic capsules" yet. However, encouraging results come from a study by Harvard University, recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Diabetes: innovative experiments

The research group has tried to disperse the insulin into two substances: an essential nutrient, choline, and geranic acid, a natural food aroma extracted from cardamom (a spice extracted from a tropical plant, the Elettaria). The whole was placed in capsules capable of supporting stomach acids and administered to six rats.

The blood sugar ( blood glucose concentration) of the animals - non-diabetic - fell rapidly, reaching 62% of the initial levels in the first two hours, and 55% over the following 10 hours.

Maximum absorption. Insulin dispersed in saline solution, or only two excipients, did not give appreciable results. According to the researchers, the liquid in which insulin was dispersed prevented the hormone from being demolished by enzymes from the digestive system after dissolving the capsule, favoring its passage through the layer of mucus that covers the intestine and through the cells that cover the intestine itself, helping it to reach the blood vessels. The ability of the preparation to overcome these three barriers facilitates the absorption of insulin and prolongs its effect.

A further advantage is the fact that the capsules are kept for two months at room temperature and four in the refrigerator: insulin, on the contrary, must be stored in the cold and in some cases degrades and loses effectiveness after a few weeks.

It still takes patience. According to some doctors, experts in this field but not involved in the study, the potential of capsule insulin would be in being able to be "delivered" to the liver at mealtimes, exactly when needed. Difficult though that it is available to man in a short time. So far it has only been tested on a small number of animals and several years will pass before it is judged to be safe, effective and widely available.