Smart Insulin Patch Could Replace Painful Injections for Diabetes
Painful insulin injections could become a thing of the past for the millions of Americans who suffer from diabetes, thanks to a new invention from researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who have created the first “smart insulin patch.” Though it has thus far only been tested in an animal model, the patch has been shown to detect increases in blood sugar levels and secrete doses of insulin into the bloodstream whenever needed.
The patch – a thin square no bigger than a penny – is covered with more than one hundred tiny needles, each about the size of an eyelash. These “microneedles” are packed with microscopic storage units for insulin and glucose-sensing enzymes that rapidly release their cargo when blood sugar levels get too high.
The study found that the new, painless patch could lower blood glucose in a mouse model of type 1 diabetes for up to nine hours. More pre-clinical tests and subsequent clinical trials in humans will be required before the patch can be administered to patients, but the approach shows great promise. A paper describing the work, “Microneedle-array patches loaded with hypoxia-sensitive vesicles provide fast glucose-responsive insulin delivery,” is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“We have designed a patch for diabetes that works fast, is easy to use, and is made from nontoxic, biocompatible materials,” said co-senior author Zhen Gu, PhD, a professor in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill. Gu also Continue reading