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Insulin pills may prevent diabetes

For nearly a century, insulin has been a life-saving diabetes treatment. Now scientists are testing a tantalising question: What if pills containing the same medicine patients inject every day could also prevent the disease?

More than 400 children and adults are participating in US government-funded international research investigating whether experimental insulin capsules can prevent or at least delay Type 1 diabetes. Hospitals in the United States and eight other countries are involved, and recruitment is ongoing.

To enrol, participants must first get results of a blood test showing their chances for developing the disease are high.


A small, preliminary study by different researchers, published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests the approach might work. Children who took insulin pills showed immune system changes that the researchers said might help prevent diabetes.

The ongoing larger study is more rigorous and should provide a clearer answer.

"Does it slow it down, does it delay diabetes? That also would be a pretty big win," said Dr Louis Philipson, a University of Chicago diabetes specialist involved in the study.