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Probiotic pill engineered to help treat diabetes

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Specially engineered probiotic stimulates insulin to treat diabetes.

Cornell scientists say the day may come when a probiotic could be used to treat diabetes. In a novel study, researchers used a probiotic pill, combined with an insulin stimulating hormone that lowers blood sugar. Targeting bacteria in the gut instead of the pancreas could mean a new diabetes treatment is on the horizon.


The researchers are testing the pill and have already licensed it so they can move forward with human studies. In rats, the probiotic lactobacilli that is a common bacteria in the gut, combined with GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide) effectively lowered blood sugar.

No need for diabetes injections with probiotic

The researchers were able to avoid the need for insulin injections by engineering a strain of lactobacilli that secretes GLP-1 that stimulate insulin production in the intestines.

The probiotic pill was administered to the rats over a period of 90 days. The probiotic stimulated cells in the upper intestines to secrete insulin in much the same way as the pancreas, lowering blood sugar by thirty percent.

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“The amount of time to reduce glucose levels following a meal [in hyperglycemic rats in the study] is the same as in a normal rat … and it is matched to the amount of glucose in the blood,” just as it would be with a normal-functioning pancreas, explained John March, professor of biological and environmental engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the paper’s senior author in a press release. “It’s moving the center of glucose control from the pancreas to the upper intestine.”

He adds that the pill moves blood sugar control from the pancreas to the intestines, reducing blood sugar in the same amount of time in diabetic rats as in normal rodents.

The study, published in the journal Diabetes should mean treatment for diabetes that could bypass the need for insulin injections. The probiotic pill is being licensed by BioPancreate.


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