Recombinant DNA technology in the treatment of diabetes: insulin analogs

Endocr Rev. 2001 Oct;22(5):706-17. doi: 10.1210/edrv.22.5.0442.


After more than half a century of treating diabetics with animal insulins, recombinant DNA technologies and advanced protein chemistry made human insulin preparations available in the early 1980s. As the next step, over the last decade, insulin analogs were constructed by changing the structure of the native protein with the goal of improving the therapeutic properties of it, because the pharmacokinetic characteristics of rapid-, intermediate-, and long-acting preparations of human insulin make it almost impossible to achieve sustained normoglycemia. The first clinically available insulin analog, lispro, confirmed the hopes by showing that improved glycemic control can be achieved without an increase in hypoglycemic events. Two new insulin analogs, insulin glargine and insulin aspart, have recently been approved for clinical use in the United States, and several other analogs are being intensively tested. Thus, it appears that a rapid acceleration of basic and clinical research in this arena will be seen, which will have direct significance to both patients and their physicians. The introduction of new short-acting analogs and the development of the first truly long-acting analogs and the development of analogs with increased stability, less variability, and perhaps selective action, will help to develop more individualized treatment strategies targeted to specific patient characteristics and to achieve further improvements in glycemic control. Data on the currently available and tested analogs, as well as data on those currently being developed, are reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence / genetics
  • DNA, Recombinant / therapeutic use*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy*
  • Genetic Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Insulin / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data


  • DNA, Recombinant
  • Insulin