Photoacoustic imaging reveals mechanisms of rapid-acting insulin formulations dynamics at the injection site

Anjul Khadria, Chad D. Paavola, Konstantin Maslov, Francisco A. Valenzuela, ... Lihong V. Wang



Ultra-rapid insulin formulations control postprandial hyperglycemia; however, inadequate understanding of injection siteabsorption mechanisms is limiting further advancement. We used photoacoustic imaging to investigate the injection site dynamics of dye-labeled insulin lispro in the Humalog® and Lyumjev® formulations using the murine ear cutaneous model and correlated it with results from unlabeled insulin lispro in pig subcutaneous injection model.


We employed dual-wavelength optical-resolution photoacoustic microscopy to study the absorption and diffusion of the near-infrared dye-labeled insulin lispro in the Humalog and Lyumjev formulations in mouse ears. We mathematically modeled the experimental data to calculate the absorption rate constants and diffusion coefficients. We studied the pharmacokinetics of the unlabeled insulin lispro in both the Humalog and Lyumjev formulations as well as a formulation lacking both the zinc and phenolic preservative in pigs. The association state of insulin lispro in each of the formulations was characterized using SV-AUC and NMR spectroscopy.


Through experiments using murine and swine models, we show that the hexamer dissociation rate of insulin lispro is not the absorption rate-limiting step. We demonstrated that the excipients in the Lyumjev formulation produce local tissue expansion and speed both insulin diffusion and microvascular absorption. We also show that the diffusion of insulin lispro at the injection site drives its initial absorption; however, the rate at which the insulin lispro crosses the blood vessels is its overall absorption rate-limiting step.


This study provides insights into injection site dynamics of insulin lispro and the impact of formulation excipients. It also demonstrates photoacoustic microscopy as a promising tool for studying protein therapeutics. The results from this study address critical questions around the subcutaneous behavior of insulin lispro and the formulation excipients, which could be useful to make faster and better controlled insulin formulations in the future.