The Trojan Horse: Sneaking Insulin into the Digestive System by Hiding It in a Vitamin

By having insulin “hitch a ride” with vitamin B12, it can arrive intact and at high potency.

Jan 28, 2009

Syracuse University chemist Robert Doyle has taken out a patent on something that has long been a Holy Grail for insulin suppliers and users: a reliable way to take insulin orally instead of with a needle.

The problem with oral administration has always been that insulin molecules get torn to shreds in the acidic confines of the stomach. Even if some of the insulin remains intact, the bloodstream has a hard time absorbing it from the intestine.

Doyle's medium is simple: chewing gum containing insulin that has been chemically bound to vitamin B12. It turns out that B12 has a sort of hall pass, a salivary protein called haptocorrin, that protects it in the mouth and stomach. When it reaches the intestine, another chemical takes over to help the vitamin enter the bloodstream.

By having insulin "hitch a ride" with vitamin B12, it can arrive intact and at high potency. Using chewing gum as the delivery mechanism encourages the production of protective haptocorrin, and the process is certainly painless compared to traditional needles. 

An article in New Scientist magazine about Doyle's patent includes a link to his patent application.

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Posted by Jerry1423 on 4 February 2009

As a type 1 diabetic I think this is a tough one to comment on - I would love to stop taking shots but I have concerns.

How is a person going to control how much insulin they take?
I now vary my insulin based on what I eat ... will that same flexibility be there with this gum?

How will a person know when all the insulin is out of the gum?

I am sure we will not see this for 20 years, so I am not even going to think about using it.

Posted by Anonymous on 4 February 2009

This sure sounds great but how will you even know the dose - people chew gum differently - how would the dose be controlled? And if it tastes terrible like alot of medicines do who would even use it?

Posted by Trekker on 4 February 2009

I agree with Jerry. Receiving insulin this way is not feasible in my estimation. Having lived with type 1 diabetes for 46 years I am very sceptic. Sounds like what was tried with inhaled insulin.

Posted by Anonymous on 25 June 2009

i realy do love it this page. it helps alot

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