Diabetes affects around 387 million people worldwide. The International Diabetes Federation estimates that this number will reach 592 million by 2035. These numbers are truly devastating.

Diabetes is a complex syndrome, its core is insulin deficiency and lowered insulin resistance in peripheral cells, resulting in high blood glucose. It affects the whole organism, predisposing to many acute and chronic complications. That being said the dosage of insulin is crucial in maintaining adequate glucose levels thus preventing complications.

Insulin therapy prescribed in all Type 1 diabetes, and many uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes, requires regular monitoring of blood glucose levels. Insulin therapy is administered through injections. These injections are perceived as being uncomfortable and a struggle for some patients.

Fortunately good news is on its way, researchers have developed a smart insulin patch that is said to be painless. This device was designed by researchers at the University of North Carolina, the Department of Biomedical Engineering. The patch consists of over hundred microneedles and this feature makes them less painful than a standard needle. 

 

Microneedles

 

Do not panic by the picture, it is taken under an electronic microscope!

The patch is thought to mimic the pancreatic beta cells. Beta cells produce and also store insulin in tiny vesicles. They also detect the increase of glucose levels thus releasing insulin from the vesicles when needed. The artificial vesicles contain a core of solid insulin and glucose – sensing enzymes.

During experiments the researchers observed that when blood glucose levels were high, the glucose flooded into the artificial vesicles. Inside the vesicle the enzymes converted glucose into gluconic acid, this process consumed oxygen which resulted in the destruction of the vesicle itself, thus releasing the insulin into the circulation.

In experimental mice glucose levels were normalized after 30 minutes, and the effects lasted for several hours. Researchers believe that this effect can last longer in humans since human cells are more sensitive to insulin compared to mice cells.

The goal of this research is to develop a patch that will need to be changed after only a few days. Senior co – author Zhen – Gu declares: “We have developed a patch for diabetes that works fast, is easy to use, and is made from nontoxic, biocompatible materials.”

Let’s hope that this device will be on the market as soon as possible.

References:

  • http://www.gizmag.com/smart-insulin-patch/38167/
  • http://www.sciencealert.com/this-new-insulin-patch-could-soon-replace-injections-for-diabetics
  • http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/new-smart-insulin-patch-could-be-game-changer
  • 1st image adapted from: http://www.gizmag.com/smart-insulin-patch/38167/pictures#2
  • 2nd image adapted from: http://www.gizmag.com/smart-insulin-patch/38167/pictures#3

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