A Japanese company whose biggest moneymaker is the sale of synthetic fabrics announced a few days ago that it has developed an insulin nasal spray for people with diabetes. The news brought an investor surge that lifted the value of its stocks by 10 percent.
Toray Industries, working in conjunction with Hoshi University in Tokyo, reported that it has developed a compound that, mixed with a peptide, successfully delivered insulin into animals’ bloodstreams in a test. (Peptides are natural or synthetic molecules that contain two or more amino acids.)
The news is a step forward in the development of alternate means of delivering insulin to people with diabetes. For now, injections via syringes or pens are the most effective way to get the delicate hormone into the bloodstream intact.
Oral and nasal sprays, which would be a quantum leap forward in convenience and pain-free dosing, run into problems with the body’s almost immediate breakdown of insulin’s complex molecular structure well before it can be absorbed into the bloodstream in any usable quantity. By “hiding” the insulin in a compound that does not begin to break down until it is available for the bloodstream to absorb it, Toray’s approach could prove to be a breakthrough.
The company is also working on capsule technology that could deliver insulin in meted-out doses over the span of several days or a week. Technology that allows the timed release of drugs is a growing focus of scientific research. Because of the potential grave dangers from the failure of timed-release capsules or similar delivery systems, however, the technology has been the subject of deep scrutiny by U.S., European, and Japanese government drug testing and licensing agencies.
The next step is for Hoshi University to collaborate with a pharmaceutical company to conduct trials of Toray’s new compound.