Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Is the end to diabetic injections in sight?

By Richard Maino

Nasal gel reduces blood glucose levels.

Globally, it is estimated that diabetes is expected to affect as many as 440 million people by 2030.

But sufferers may never need to take insulin injections again - because innovative scientists working in the United Kingdom have developed a once-a-day nasal gel.

Research by a team led by Dr Hamde Nazar could put an end to numerous daily injections of insulin for type 1 diabetes sufferers, and those type 2 diabetics who also require injections. She is a senior lecturer in pharmacy practice in the Department of Pharmacy, Health & Well-being at the University of Sunderland, north-east England.

Results showed that gel loaded with insulin reduces the blood glucose levels over 24 hours in a diabetic model when administered through the nose and into the bloodstream. When insulin was taken via an injection it took just nine hours for blood glucose to return to normal levels.

Dr Nazar said: “This process could potentially be beneficial because it would reduce the number of injections that patients would have to administer. Some people have to take up to five injections per day. This could replace some of those injections. Reducing the number of insulin injections could significantly improve diabetic patients’ standard of living.”

It is thought that about 300,000 people in the UK suffer from type 1 diabetes that destroys insulin-making cells in the pancreas. Sufferers of the condition have to inject themselves a number of times during the day to prevent the levels of glucose in the blood going too high, and keep it under control.

Injections can be an inconvenience for those with diabetes as well as make them distressed. A nasal spray could be a much more attractive alternative treatment - and less painful.

Once in the nose the solution heats up to nasal temperature and becomes a gel, allowing a longer residence time in the nasal cavity to be effective. If it did not it would cleared by beating hairs called cilia in the nose and would not make an impact.

Research led by Dr Nazar took place across the world including Lebanon, Italy, Greece and at the University of Portsmouth, southern England. The research is published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Biomaterials Science. Dr Nazar is a member of the Health Sciences and Well-being Research Beacon in the Faculty of Applied Sciences (

Diabetes is serious. If left untreated, it can lead to heart disease, stroke, blindness and kidney failure. Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly.

There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes develops if the body cannot produce any insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose to enter the cells where it is used as fuel by the body. Type 1 diabetes usually appears before the age of 40. It is the least common of the two main types and accounts for about 10 per cent of all people with the condition.

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body can still make some insulin, but not enough, or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly, known as insulin resistance. In most cases this is linked with being overweight.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that the five countries with the largest numbers of people with diabetes are India, China, the United States, Russia and Brazil.

The IDF also reported that the five countries with the highest diabetes prevalence in the adult population are Nauru, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Mauritius and Bahrain. Low and middle-income countries face the greatest burden of diabetes.

Most health experts agree that the UK is facing a huge increase in the number of people with diabetes. Since 1996 the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has increased from 1.4 million to 2.6 million.

By 2025 it is estimated that more than four million people will have diabetes. Most of these cases will be type 2 diabetes, because of the ageing population and rapidly rising numbers of overweight and obese people.

London Press Service