Liquid crystals for insulin drug delivery


The incidence of diabetes is rising at an alarming rate. The World Health Organisation estimates that about 10% of all men and women aged 25 and over in the European Region have diabetes, which now ranks among the top 10 causes of global mortality. People who live with diabetes often need to inject insulin daily with a method that might be difficult to manage, control and is also prone to side effects. Millions of people would benefit from a new way of insulin administration.

A research work with the contribution of CERIC-ERIC investigates the use of nanosystems such as liquid crystalline mesophases for insulin drug delivery. The research, led by Prof. Michela Pisani (Marche Polytechnic University), with the contribution of Prof. Paola Astolfi (Marche Polytechnic University), Dr. Lisa Vaccari (Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste), and colleagues, included experiments made at SAXS and SISSI beamlines, respectively at the Austrian and Italian CERIC partner facilities at Elettra. SAXS (Small Angle X-ray Scattering) beamline allowed the analysis of the structure of the nanosystems and how insulin can modify their symmetry. At the same time, at SISSI (Synchrotron Infrared Source for Spectroscopy and Imaging) beamline was possible to gather information about the conformation of insulin while included in the liquid crystal structure. This information is fundamental since insulin can have different forms, each one with a different degree of biological activity.

Graphic representation of cubic and hexagonal mesophases loaded with insulin

This research work gave essential information that could unlock the potential of liquid crystalline nanosystems for insulin drug delivery. A new, more manageable, and more controllable method for delivering bioactive insulin could improve the quality of life of millions of people worldwide struggling with diabetes and insulin injections every day.

Below the radio interview (in Italian) with Prof. Michela Pisani and Dr. Lisa Vaccari on their research work:


Cubic and Hexagonal Mesophases for Protein Encapsulation: Structural Effects of Insulin Confinement. Astolfi P., Giorgini E., Perinelli D. R., Vita F., Adamo F. C., Logrippo S., Parlapiano M., Bonacucina G., Pucciarelli S., Francescangeli O., Vaccari L., & Pisani M., Langmuir, 2021.