NORTH CAROLINA – Painful insulin injections could become a thing of the past for the millions of people who suffer from diabetes as here comes the new invention from researchers at the University of North Carolina and NC State who have created the first smart insulin patch.
It can detect increases in blood sugar levels and secrete doses of insulin into the bloodstream whenever needed.
The tiny patch, a thin square is covered with more than one hundred tiny needles, each about the size of an eyelash.
These ‘micro needles’ are packed with microscopic storage units for insulin and glucose-sensing enzymes that rapidly release their cargo when blood sugar levels get too high.
Researchers demonstrated that the insulin-containing particles, which are exposed to blood capillaries when the microneedles puncture the skin, can change systemic insulin and glucose levels in mice. In a mouse model of type I diabetes, the patches kept glucose levels within a normal range for several hours.
“We have designed a patch for diabetes that works fast, is easy to use, and is made from nontoxic, biocompatible materials,” says co-senior author Zhen Gu, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and at North Carolina State University.
“The hard part of diabetes care is not the insulin shots, or the blood sugar checks, or the diet but the fact that you have to do them all several times a day every day for the rest of your life”, said Buse, the director of the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute and past president of the American Diabetes Association.
About 400 million people worldwide have diabetes and that number is expected to grow to 592 million by the year 2035.
Poor glucose control can lead to serious complications such as limb loss and organ failure. People with type 1 and advanced type 2 diabetes try to keep their blood sugar levels under control with regular finger pricks and repeated insulin shots, a process that is painful and imprecise.
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