A gel for lasting glucose control

Combining a diabetes drug with a gel-forming polymer could mean less frequent injections for people with the disease.

Diabetes drugs that mimic a signalling molecule called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP1) can control blood glucose levels, but they are short-lived in the body and have to be injected weekly. To make a GLP1 drug that lasts longer, Ashutosh Chilkoti at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and his colleagues fused GLP1 to a protein called ELP, which can be made to form a gel at specific temperatures.

The researchers created a GLP1–ELP compound that solidifies as a gel when warmed by the body after injection. The drug is then gradually released as the gel dissolves. The compound stayed in the circulation for up to 10 days in mouse models of diabetes. In macaque monkeys (Macaca fascicularis), it stayed active for up to 17 days.

If the compound is effective in humans, people with diabetes could require only one or two injections a month, the authors suggest.