Researchers have developed "surgery in a pill" that can reduce post-meal blood sugar spikes and help reverse diabetes.
When the pill was administered in rats, it delivered a substance that could temporarily coat the intestine, forming a thin barrier that alters nutrient contact and lowers blood glucose response after a meal, the researchers said.
"We envision a pill that a patient can take before a meal that transiently coats the gut to replicate the effects of surgery," said Jeff Karp, a bioengineer at the Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Massachusetts, US.
After a meal, blood sugar levels rise and can stay elevated over time.
However, one hour after the pill was administered to the rats, the response to glucose was lowered by 47 %.
"What we've developed here is essentially, 'surgery in a pill'," added Yuhan Lee, a materials scientist in the BWH.
This response was temporary, and after three hours, the effect essentially disappeared, the study showed.
For the study, published in the journal Nature Materials, the team selected a substance known as sucralfate -- an FDA-approved drug that is used in the treatment of gastrointestinal ulcers -- to adhere to the small intestine and then dissolve within a matter of hours.
Further, the team engineered the substance into a novel material that can coat the lining of the intestine without requiring activation by gastric acid.
The engineered compound, referred to as LuCI (Luminal Coating of the Intestine), can be made into a dry powdered form that can be encapsulated as a pill.
"We've used a bioengineering approach to formulate a pill that has good adhesion properties and can attach nicely to the gut in a preclinical model. And after a couple of hours, its effects dissipate," Lee said.
The team is now testing the effect of short-and long-term use of LuCI in diabetic and obese rodent models.