Probably that it is used to treat diabetes.
You might also know that it has to be injected with a needle which isn’t that nice.
It cannot be swallowed because it is a protein and will be digested. I wrote about it in my post You cannot swallow insulin – where I also explained how all the different pills for diabetics work (read more if interested).
But guess what? Now there is a new kind of insulin that does not require a needle! It is an insulin powder which can be inhaled and will go through the lungs into the blood. It is fantastic! And it is approved.
No more pain! Afrezza insulin can be inhaled
Afrezza is fast acting insulin (active in minutes). This way it can be taken before a meal to deal with the carbohydrates consumed during this meal. At the moment it is not recommended for smokers and people with asthma.
The big challenge now is to get the price comparable to the injectable insulin and to get the health insurance companies to actually cover its use. MannKind Corporations, the company behind Afrezza, is convinced they will. Let’s see!
How insulin works
Imagine how many people are diabetic – you probably know someone or are experiencing it yourself. It is thought that about 371 Million people worldwide are affected by diabetes. Before 1921 people with diabetes simply died! Especially when the body produced no insulin at all anymore. Insulin opens the door to the cells so that carbohydrates (as sugars) can come into the cells and provide energy and keep us alive. Without insulin our cells starve, even the body is eating.
That’s why insulin is so important and that’s why the story of insulin is so impressive. One protein that saves Millions of lives!
The history of insulin!
1889 Oskar Minkowski and Josef von Mering proposed that an organ called ‘the pancreas’ was involved in the sugar metabolism.
1910 Edward Albert Sharpey-Shafer found that a single chemical was missing from the pancreas in diabetic people. He proposed calling this chemical “insulin”
1921 Frederick Banting and his student assistant, Charles Best, extract insulin from dog pancreases. The do so in a lab of Professor John Macleod. James Collip purifies the extract so that it can be used in humans.
1922 A diabetic teenager in a Toronto hospital named Leonard Thompson was the first person ever to be injected with insulin. Until 1978 the insulin injected into humans was of animal origin (mainly cattle and pigs).
1923 Frederick Banting and John Macleod receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of insulin. They shared their Prize money with Charles Best and James Collip.
1955 Insulin became the first protein to be fully sequenced.
1963 Insulin became the first protein to be chemically synthesized in a laboratory even researchers were unable to produce much of it.
1976 The first insulin pumps were invented. They can constantly give insulin to the body but were very heavy and big at that time. By now they are more practical.
1978 Insulin became the first human protein to be manufactured through biotechnology (genetically modified bacteria). By now, almost all diabetics use human insulin.
1996 A new modified human insulin enters the market. It is specially developed to act very fast after injection and is therefore used for meal times only.
2006 The first inhalable insulin (Exubera) was invented and approved. All other insulins have to be injected with a syringe or a pen with needle.
2007 Exubera failed and was put off the market.
2014 The new inhalable insulin called Afrezza was approved.
The new Insulin Afrezza!
The dream of getting insulin pain-free and needle-free into the blood was dreamed before. Exubera was the name of the dream; dreamed of but soon blown in! Why?
Exubera (an inhalable insulin powder by Pfizer) failed mainly because
- The gigantic size of the inhaler
- The high prize and the resulting lack of coverage by insurances
- Absorption by the human body not fast enough
Afrezza, the new inhalable insulin powder:
- Has a small inhaler that can easily be carried around
- Works very fast and is easily absorbed by the body
- is absolutely pain-free (no more needles)
I see lots of hope in Afrezza to make lives not only livable but also comfortable. I hope the insurance companies agree!
see also: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/