A probiotic pill, developd by scientists at Cornell University, reduced blood glucose levels by a third in rats.

The pill is based on lactobacillus, a probiotic form of bacteria found in the human gut. When taken, the pill caused the body to secrete the hormone glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), the same hormone which is found in the injectable type 2 diabetes drugs Victoza and Byetta.

When tested on diabetic rats over 90 days, the probiotic pill lowered the rats’ high blood glucose levels by a third. The study was a proof of principle study and the researchers are confident that using a higher dose could achieve even stronger results.

Gut bacteria has emerged in recent years as a very promising area of research into treating type 2 diabetes and this study outlines how useful this area of research could be.

Within the study, the researchers noticed that the epithelial cells which line the upper part of the intestines became converted into cells that behaved similarly to the insulin producing cells of the pancreas (beta cells), in recognising the presence of glucose and secreting insulin.

The probiotic pill shares the same advantage that GLP-1 medications have in that when the pill was given non-diabetic rats, it did not stimulate the release of excess insulin or bring on hypoglycemia.

To help bring the project towards human trials, the pill will be developed by BioPancreate Inc. a pharmaceutical partner of Cornell University.

The study was published online by the Diabetes journal.