The biologic action of insulin entrapped in liposomes (phospholipid vesicles) has been investigated following subcutaneous injection to dogs made diabetic with a combination of alloxan and streptozotocin. The fate of the liposomally entrapped material was determined by injecting rats subcutaneously with either 125l-insulin or the labeled polysaccharide 14C-inulin, incorporated in liposomes labeled with 3H-cholesterol.

Injection of liposome insulin (0.75 U/kg) to five diabetic dogs resulted in a mean (± SEM) blood glucose fall from 16.4 ± 0.8 to 2.9 ± 0.4 mmol/L. The glucose level had still not returned to baseline after 24 h and, correspondingly, immunoreactive insulin (IRI) could still be detected in frozen and thawed plasma 24 h after injection. In contrast, the hypoglycemic effect of the same dose of free insulin with or without empty liposomes virtually ended within 8 h and IRI levels returned to baseline by 3 h after injection.

In experiments on rats with liposomally entrapped 125l-insulin or 14C-inulin the proportion of the injected dose of tracer recoverable by excision of the injection site remained constant after about 1 h and 70% of the dose was still fixed in subcutaneous tissue for at least 5 h thereafter. When the plasma collected 3 h after subcutaneous injection of labeled liposomes containing 125I-insulin was passed through a column of Sepharose 6B, 50–75% of the 125I-activity was found in the fractions associated with intact liposomes. One possibility for the persistence of the hypoglycemic effect and of measurable IRI following injection of liposome insulin could be the presence of intact liposomes in the circulation for many hours after absorption had ceased.

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