New briefs this week: An Australian company that makes "cosmeceuticals" is developing an insulin gel patch in collaboration with the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School. A Japanese company that makes synthetic fabrics is developing an insulin nasal spray with Hoshi University in Tokyo.
Hey, I don't make this stuff up. As you well know, these kinds of headlines are either tantalizingly exciting, or disgustingly frustrating, depending on how long you've had the 'betes and how much of a "glass-half-full" type of person you are.
Not only that, but the chances of these kinds of alternative insulin delivery methods actually replacing shots for people with type 1 (who need constant basal and flexible mealtime doses) is very slight indeed.
And after a while, these type of headlines seem like a bad joke, as they go round and round promising "the end of needles for people with diabetes." NOT. Alternative insulin delivery has proven at least as tough a nut to crack as "non-invasive" glucose monitoring. See expert John Smith's treatise on that here.
Still, what piqued my curiosity on this latest "insulin gel patch" announcement was the involvement of Joslin, the most respected name in diabetes care in this country. They wouldn't study something silly and clearly unattainable, now would they?
The media reports:
"Trials conducted in two Melbourne hospitals have proved insulin can be delivered to the bloodstream via a gel rubbed on the skin...
And now this technology is to be applied to a slow-release patch, similar to nicotine patches.
Melbourne biotechnology company Phosphagenics, working with the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School, will conduct insulin patch trials in Australia and the US."
According to this announcement, researchers have made some breakthrough in the size of insulin delivery molecules that allows them to better penetrate the skin (?)
Interestingly, the most recent info that I could find on the company Phosphagenics was an announcement they were slated to begin Phase 2 trials on type 1 patients in Spring of 2008.
The head of Phosphagenics appears confident that the gel will be effective for both type 1 and type 2 patients. But in that press release from last year, a doctor-spokesman from the national advocacy organization Diabetes Australia begs to differ: he says it is "unlikely insulin patches and gels would replace injections into the bloodstream, particularly for patients with type 1."
Still, if the patches can successfully provide a "steady flow of (basal) insulin" through the skin, this would be revolutionary for millions of PWDs, no?
I just find it hard to believe that they'll succeed. I'm reminded of many other headlines touting companies who claimed similar feats, such as a much-hyped product called U-Strip, whose company website seems to have gone "off the air."
Even Valeritas, with their promising h-patch pump, has been very quiet of late.
Meanwhile, Diabetes Health magazine is covering Toray Industries' new insulin nasal spray product. They've reportedly "developed a compound that, mixed with a peptide, successfully delivered insulin into animals' bloodstreams."
In fact, I'm seeing more red than anything else reading all of these "no more needles" stories. Maybe I'm just jaded, but I don't see this happening in my lifetime, certainly not for us type 1's. Unless you know something I don't know...