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Issue 124 Item 3 New Insulin Seen as Key to Saving Millions of Patients with Dia

May 5, 2002

Nanomized Insulin made of smaller particles and reduces number of daily injections. People with diabetes may only need a third of their usual dose when taking the new form of insulin, a team of Australian scientists has shown. It is made up of tiny particles under 100 nanometres (100 millionths of a millimeter) across.

In tests on rats conducted at Deakin University, near Melbourne, 0.15 units per kilogram of body weight produced the same response as 0.5 units of normal insulin.

The study did not set out to establish a minimum dose, and experts believe the new insulin may be more than three times as potent as the traditional form. The new drug also produced a more sustained effect, New Scientist magazine reported.

Normal insulin starts to lose its effect after 30 minutes, but the nanomised insulin continued to act strongly for at least an hour. That means diabetics might be able to cut back from five injections a day to only two or three, said New Scientist.

The new insulin was produced by Eiffel Technologies of Melbourne using a "supercritical fluid" process also being developed by other companies. To nanomize insulin, a gas is first put under such high pressure that it becomes "supercritical” and starts to behave like a liquid.

Normal insulin is dissolved in the supercritical fluid, which is suddenly decompressed, making the insulin precipitate out in particles. If it lives up to its promise nanomised insulin could relieve a worldwide shortage of insulin that is causing the deaths of millions of diabetics in developing countries.

It is not clear why nanomized insulin is more efficient or why it lasts longer. An expert who reviewed the Deakin study said insulin molecules normally "cluster together in a six-pack" configuration which the body has to convert back to a single form. With nanomized insulin, this process may not be necessary.

The scientists believe the technique could also improve the effectiveness of other drugs and allow them to be delivered in easier ways, such as through skin patches