Using an FDA-approved drug called sucralfate as a base, the team engineered a compound they call LuCI (Luminal Coating of the Intestine). Once ingested, the compound temporarily coats the inner lining of the intestine. This essentially replicates how the surgery makes part of the intestine unable to absorb nutrients. And it seems effective — within an hour of administration, LuCI lowered rats’ after-meal response to glucose by 47 percent.
“What we’ve developed here is essentially, ‘surgery in a pill,’” study co-lead author Yuhan Lee said in a press release. “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.”
The pill, of course, isn’t quite ready to go on sale yet. Next, the researchers plan to test LuCI in diabetic and obese rats. If it works as hoped, the drug could one day provide a much-needed replacement for gastric bypass surgery in reversing type 2 diabetes.