Researchers trying to replace injections with insulin patches for diabetics

13 Jul, 2015 11:00 pm

NORTH CAROLINA – At a lab at North Carolina State University, Dr Zhen Gu is on a mission to stop diabetes. And on this mission, he and his team of researchers believe they are on their way to a major breakthrough: replacing insulin injection shots.

Dr Zhen Gu, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said: “Basically we developed this kind of so-called smart insulin patch, which can sense the blood sugar level and release insulin at the right time only once the blood sugar goes up. And the insulin can be quickly released from the patch. And meanwhile once the blood sugar level goes to a normal range, less insulin is released or is just inhibited. Basically this kind of smart insulin patch is not only smart, it is also painless.”

This insulin patch – coloured to show the insulin once inside the mice – is smaller than a pinky fingernail.

A closer look shows its microneedles – each packed with insulin and special enzymes designed to identify when blood sugar levels are low. Dr Zhen Gu said: “We are trying to mimic the functioning of the beta cells or the vesicles inside the beta cells and they can disrupt once the blood sugar goes up and release insulin quickly.”

Dr Gu says they’ve been able to make the patch last for several hours. They hope to make it last several days. And once they do, they’ll be closer to reaching their goal.

He said: “We are very proud of our technology and we really want to translate it as fast as possible. Currently we are working with our collaborators and testing it on animals like mini pigs in a study. If this mini pig study successfully demonstrates it, we will move to the human being testing immediately.”

For almost 400 million people world-wide with diabetes, the prick for insulin could become a thing of the past. –Reuters

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