What is it about?

Protein drugs – insulin being a common example – cannot be taken as pills, because they cannot be properly absorbed by the intestines and released into the body. Here, we have found that a molecule in common strawberries can be given alongside these drugs to boost their uptake into the body and allow them to take full effect when taken by mouth.

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Why is it important?

Oral delivery of insulin (and other peptide or protein drugs) could greatly improve patient compliance and treatment successes, but they have previously been hindered by the inability of these drugs to absorb into the body through the intestines. Here, we describe a new use for a naturally occurring chemical – derived from strawberries – that can enable absorption of these drugs with no detectable side effects in the intestines, even after repeated daily dosing for a month.


An adventure from start to finish, this paper details a scientific journey that began with an epiphany by Prof. Whitehead in an airport cosmetics stall, toured through several grocery stores in search of bioactive produce, made over 100 fruit or vegetable slurries, combined classic drug delivery engineering with natural product chemistry approaches, and concluded with formulation and delivery of effective insulin pills in mice. It was a delight to get to work on such a unique project with a broad team of engineers and chemists, and I hope you enjoy reading!

Nicholas Lamson
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The strawberry-derived permeation enhancer pelargonidin enables oral protein delivery, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2207829119.
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