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Am J Ther. 2020 Jan/Feb;27(1):e42-e51. doi: 10.1097/MJT.0000000000001089.

Biosynthetic Human Insulin and Insulin Analogs.

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Endocrine and Metabolic Consultants, Rockville, MD.
Biomedical Informatics Consultants LLC, Potomac, MD.



Biosynthetic human insulins and analogs have replaced animal insulins and permitted structural modifications to alter the rate of absorption, duration of action, improve reproducibility of effects, and modulate relative efficacy in various target tissues. Several forms of rapidly acting insulins nearly achieve rapid pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics similar to first-phase insulin release. There is need for even faster-acting analogs to mimic normal physiology and improve control of postprandial glycemic excursions. Two biosynthetic insulin analogs have sufficiently long duration of action for use as once-daily basal insulins; controversy persists regarding their respective risks of hypoglycemia and relative glycemic variability.


Basal-bolus therapy and insulin pump therapy, including closed-loop automated insulin delivery, require rapid-acting insulin analogs. The longer acting insulins can provide stable, reproducible basal insulin with reduced rates of hypoglycemia, particularly nocturnal hypoglycemia, greater efficacy in reducing mean glucose and glucose variability while increasing time in glucose target range. Inhalable human insulin provides very rapid action. Premixture of rapid-acting analogs with protamine has been useful for some patients with type 2 diabetes. An insulin analog with preferential efficacy at the liver has been developed and tested clinically but not marketed. Current research is aimed at developing even faster-acting insulin analogs. Long-acting basal insulins coformulated with GLP-1 receptor agonists or with a rapidly acting insulin analog have valuable clinical applications. Excipients, chaperones, local heating of the infusion site, and hyaluronidase have also been used to accelerate the absorption of insulin analogs.


Biosynthetic human insulins have radically revolutionized management of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes worldwide. The ability to manipulate the structure and formulation of insulin provides for more physiologic pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, enabling improved glycemic control, reduced risk of hypoglycemia, and reduced rates of long-term complications.

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