Promising new treatment controls blood sugar in diabetics for days at a time
Researchers have developed a promising new treatment for diabetes by injecting a network of nanoscale particles into the body to release insulin when blood-sugar levels rise, maintaining normal blood sugar levels for more than a week in animal-based laboratory tests.
"We've created a 'smart' system that is injected into the body and responds to changes in blood sugar by releasing insulin, effectively controlling blood-sugar levels," said Dr. Zhen Gu, an assistant professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and UNC Chapel Hill, and lead author of a paper describing the work, which was conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Children's Hospital Boston.
"We've tested the technology in mice, and one injection was able to maintain blood sugar levels in the normal range for up to 10 days," said Gu.
When you have type 1 diabetes, your body makes little or no insulin, which is called insulin deficiency and can create a variety of health problems. As a result, diabetes patients have to monitor their blood sugar by taking frequent blood samples and injecting insulin when necessary to restore their blood sugar levels to a more normal range.
Unfortunately, it can be challenging to determine the right dose of insulin, and injecting the wrong amount can be hazardous, not to mention the pain such injections can cause. But with the injectable nano-network – which consists of nanoparticles combined with a solid core of insulin, modified dextran and glucose oxidase enzymes – when the enzymes are exposed to high glucose levels, they effectively convert glucose into gluconic acid. The insulin then brings the glucose levels under control.
"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," Gu says. "This has the potential to improve the health and quality of life of diabetes patients."
Gu's research team is currently in discussions to move the technology into clinical trials for use in humans.
SOURCE: American Chemical Society (ACS), ACS Nano, Article (DOI: 10.1021/nn400630x). Published May 2, 2013.