Smartphone-Controlled Cells Could Pump Insulin for Diabetics
Scientists in China have used a smartphone and a technique called optogenetics to precisely control cells to deliver insulin to diabetic mice. The approach could be used to continuously monitor blood glucose levels in human diabetics and automatically produce necessary insulin, a hormone that converts sugar from food into energy the body can use.
The researchers engineered human cells with a light-sensitive gene that is found in plants and produces insulin on cue when activated by wirelessly powered red LED lights. They inserted those lights and the designer cells onto small, flexible discs that were then grafted onto the backs of mice.
Neural probes that combine optics, electronics, and drugs could help unlock the secrets of the brain.
A customized Android-based phone app turns on the LED lights and adjusts the intensity of the light. The researchers exposed the diabetic mice to about four hours of light each day and were able to stabilize normal insulin production in the bloodstream for 15 days.
Optogenetics is an emerging field that uses light-sensitive proteins to regulate biological activities in the body. The technique has been envisioned as a way to treat a range of diseases, including Parkinson’s and schizophrenia. The first human test of optogenetics is under way to restore vision to patients with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition that leads to blindness.
The researchers, who describe the insulin delivery approach in Science Translational Medicine, say the system was inspired by the “smart home” concept, which involves lighting, heating, and Continue reading