Diabetes patients who are tired of taking daily insulin shots may soon be able to take injections once in four months, thanks to a new formulation developed by Indian scientists.

Scientists at the National Institute of Immunology in India have patented a new technique that allows a single dose of insulin to maintain a base level of the hormone for more than 120 days, published media reports said.

The new insulin formulation follows a simple technique whereby the hormone is clumped together into complexes called oligomers. When these were injected into rats, mice, and rabbits with chemically induced diabetes, it was found that a single injection maintained basal glucose levels for up to three months.

However, other diabetic mice required daily shots and those that were deprived of insulin on a daily basis died within 40 days, says Dr. Avadesha Surolia, Director of the National Institute of Immunology, who led the research team.

Oligomers act like “an insulin depot” in the body, releasing a steady, low insulin dose. “The just-above-the-basal-level human insulin released in a sustained manner has been found to be effective in not only controlling the upsurge in the level of blood glucose after meals, but also in preventing the dreaded early morning hypoglycaemia, which is caused by low glucose levels,” he says.

The oligomer technique primarily involves getting individual molecules of insulin to come together and form multi-molecular or supra-molecular assemblies.

Oligomer insulin utilizes the basic principles of protein folding to harness the aggregative property of insulin molecules to generate a form which resulted in a controlled and sustained release of the molecules over prolonged periods, says Dr. Surolia, who is also a professor at the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science’s Molecular Biophysics Unit.

Since oligomers do not lead to the activation of enzymes that destroy insulin, it does not cause cancer that many of the available insulin analogues are associated with. The researchers reported that they observed no side effects in the animal studies.

The National Institute has transferred the technology to Life Science Pharmaceuticals in Darien, Connecticut for further development and clinical trials, which are scheduled to start later this year.