Diabetes wonder pill created by Irish scientists could save patients from

Irish scientists are working on a breakthrough in diabetes tablets that could spare patients their daily round of painful injections.

A new RTE documentary called Bittersweet shows CÚRAM’s Professor David Brayden and his team at UCD’s Veterinary Hospital carrying out laboratory tests to make insulin available in a pill.

Professor Brayden said there has been a huge rise in diabetes in Ireland over the past decade mainly due to a sedentary, Western diet.

“The rise in diabetes is probably tenfold over the last decade”, said Professor Brayden, Co-lead principal investigator at Advanced Drug Delivery, UCD.

“The majority of these are going to be Type 2 diabetics and that diabetes really originates in lifestyle, eating the wrong foods at the wrong time and not taking enough exercise.”

He warned of the expected rise in chronic disease among young people with rising obesity rates.

He said: “They are predicting that up to a third or half of our kids are going to end up obese when they reach their twenties. Obese is quite a strict definition.

“The link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes is very strong so we know it puts more pressure on the system.

Professor David Brayden
(Image: UCD)

“When I was a kid, we were out running the whole summer but now kids are in front of PCs and on their phones all the time and unless they are doing organised sport they don’t really partake.

“This is why there is an effort into promoting lifestyle choices in the kids and in the adults because they need to believe in giving the right foods to the kids at a very early age.”

The documentary – part of a joint programme from NUI Galway’s CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices and the Galway Film Centre programme – will be broadcast on Wednesday on World Diabetes Day.

Typical treatment for Type 1 diabetics includes daily injections while initial treatment with Type 2 is focused on delaying the disease through exercise and diet with patients later moving on to needles.

CÚRAM’s Professor David Brayden and his team at UCD’s Veterinary Hospital are working on making oral insulin possible as he believes patients are much more open to taking tablets than injecting themselves.

“We know because inhaled insulin has been achieved, we know patients prefer other routes apart from injection.

“If Type 2 diabetics went on injected insulin earlier in their disease the outcomes are actually better for the patient.

“But these patients tend to delay because it is a huge psychological leap to say I’m going to be on injections for the rest of my life.

“Even if we could have a tablet for mealtimes for rapid acting insulin that would be quite an achievement and then the ultimate would be the try and avoid injections altogether where we are able to give tablets for the long-acting insulin.”

He said the use of nano-technology or putting medicine into tiny particles in a capsule tablet mean they can be put directly into gut wall and bypass other organs.

Suvi and Rosie Coffey who feature in the Science on Screen documentary, Bittersweet – The Rise of Diabetes.
(Image: NUI Galway)

He said: “Patients will normally take subcutaneous injections of insulin which means that organs outside of the liver, its intended target, will receive high concentrations of insulin they don’t need.

“This will lead to side effects such as weight gain and other undesirable events later in life.

He added: “We don’t carry clinical trials but out formulation could be used by clinicians and pharmaceutical companies.

“The idea is they will go on and test them in diabetic patients.”

Professor Derek O’Keeffe, Consultant Physician, University Hospital Galway and NUI Galway, said Bittersweet shows the silent burden of chronic disease on young patients and their families.

He said: “As a clinician my role is to help patients on this journey and to empower them to manage their medical conditions by harnessing the latest innovations, to allow them to live their best life.”

Suvi Coffey, the Dublin mother of toddler, Rosie, tells the documentary she won’t let Type 1 diabetes affect her daughter, Rosie’s life.

“Her life in general will be the same as any her child her age and as she goes on I think she will be stronger and a little bit more resilient. She is an amazing, incredible, strong little girl.”

Bittersweet – The Rise of Diabetes will be broadcast on RTÉ 1 on Wednesday, 14 November at 11.10pm.