A new development for diabetes treatment has been discovered. Researchers at North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Massachussetts Institute of Technology and the Children’s Hospital Boston have developed a network of injectable nanoparticles that can release insulin when the blood sugar levels of diabetics begin to rise. This new technology was tested on mice, and researchers discovered that one injection was capable of maintaining normal blood sugar levels for up to 10 days.
The bodies of patients with type 1 diabetes do not produce enough insulin. Insulin is important as it transports glucose, or blood sugar, from the blood into the body’s cells. Currently, patients with this type of diabetes must frequently monitor their blood levels by taking samples of their own blood and inject insulin to maintain blood sugar levels in the normal range. These injections can be painful and come with their own set of risks as they are unable to determine an accurate dosage.
So how does this work? The nanoparticles are given either a positive or negative charge via their coating. When the solutions are mixed, the positive and negative charges attract to each other to form a network. Once injected into the skin, this network holds the nanoparticles together so that they don’t disperse throughout the body. The nano-network is created to be porous, allowing blood and blood sugar to reach the nanoparticle cores.
The injectable nanoparticles are mixed with insulin, modified dextran and glucose oxidase enzymes. Under high glucose levels, these enzymes convert glucose to gluconic acid, breaking down the modified dextran and releases insulin. The remaining gluconic acid and dextran dissolve in the body.
According to Dr. Zhen Gu, the lead author of the paper describing the work:
“This technology effectively creates a ‘closed-loop’ system that mimics the activity of the pancreas in a healthy person, releasing insulin in response to glucose level changes. This has the potential to improve the health and quality of life of diabetes patients.”
Considering that over 25 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from some type of diabetes, this technology could change their lives.
The research team responsible for this new technology is currently in discussions to begin human trials soon.