Nature Nanotechnology, Vol.15, No.7, 605-+, 2020
Zwitterionic micelles efficiently deliver oral insulin without opening tight junctions
A zwitterionic micelle platform enables the oral delivery and high bioavailability of insulin by transporting the protein across mucus and epithelial barriers in the gut without opening tight junctions. Oral delivery of protein drugs is considered a life-changing solution for patients who require regular needle injections. However, clinical translation of oral protein formulations has been hampered by inefficient penetration of drugs through the intestinal mucus and epithelial cell layer, leading to low absorption and bioavailability, and safety concerns owing to tight junction openings. Here we report a zwitterionic micelle platform featuring a virus-mimetic zwitterionic surface, a betaine side chain and an ultralow critical micelle concentration, enabling drug penetration through the mucus and efficient transporter-mediated epithelial absorption without the need for tight junction opening. This micelle platform was used to fabricate a prototype oral insulin formulation by encapsulating a freeze-dried powder of zwitterionic micelle insulin into an enteric-coated capsule. The biocompatible oral insulin formulation shows a high oral bioavailability of >40%, offers the possibility to fine tune insulin acting profiles and provides long-term safety, enabling the oral delivery of protein drugs.