Research Highlight

An Indian plant for diabetes control

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.112 Published online 14 August 2019

Withania coagulans
The bitter-tasting Withania coagulans (paneer dodi in Hindi) – traditionally used in the coagulation of milk to make Indian cheese – has found a potential new use in sugar control in diabetics1.

Researchers have shown that the extract from the berries of this plant reduces blood glucose levels in diabetic mice. Diabetic mice that were fed the extract-containing nanoparticles for five days showed a 60 per cent reduction in blood glucose compared with their starting levels. 

However, when taken orally, the medicinal components in the plant extracts are often destroyed by the acidic conditions of the stomach. Nanotechnologist Kaarunya Sampathkumar and co-workers at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore therefore encapsulated the plant extract within chitosan nanoparticles coated with food-based starch. This special delivery vehicle could safely transport the extract to the small intestine, where the cargo would be released and absorbed.

The plant extract was found to elicit the glucose-lowering effect by promoting insulin secretion from pancreatic β cells, their report said. "The cells treated with the extract showed a nearly two-fold increase in insulin secretion compared to untreated cells," it added.


1. Sampathkumar, K. et al. Small-intestine-specific delivery of antidiabetic extracts from Withania coagulans using polysaccharide-based enteric-coated nanoparticles. ACS Omega 4, 12049-12057 (2019) doi: 10.1021/acsomega.9b00823