Researchers at Zhejiang University, in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have developed a groundbreaking “smart” insulin that effectively regulates blood glucose levels for up to one week after a single injection. The team of chemists, polymer scientists, and drug delivery specialists published their findings in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, detailing their creation and testing of the modified insulin on diabetic mice and minipigs.
Type I diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by inadequate insulin production by the pancreas. Current treatment options for patients with this disease include dietary modifications and regular injections of insulin. However, these injections can be painful and challenging, as repeated use can lead to skin hardening around injection sites, making needle insertion difficult.
In an effort to address these challenges, researchers have been exploring innovative treatment options. The team behind this recent breakthrough developed a form of insulin that interacts with specific agents within the body, allowing for automatic control of blood glucose levels for an extended period.
The smart insulin developed by the researchers is a modified version of the existing insulin type, with the addition of gluconic acid. When injected into the body, this acid forms a complex by bonding with chemicals present in the blood. These complexes trap the insulin within a natural polymer, altering insulin signaling. Depending on blood glucose levels, varying amounts of insulin are released automatically by the complex. This mechanism enables higher insulin release when needed, such as after a meal, and less release when not required.
To test the effectiveness of their modified insulin, the researchers conducted experiments on three minipigs and five mice, all of which were engineered to have diabetes. One minipig received a low dose of the smart insulin, while the remaining two minipigs were administered higher doses. The team closely monitored the animals over the following weeks.
The results showed that the minipig receiving the low dose exhibited the most stable glucose regulation compared to the other minipigs receiving higher doses and the control group receiving daily injections of standard insulin.
These findings offer promise for a new treatment approach for individuals with type I diabetes. The researchers plan to continue testing their smart insulin in animal models, and if successful, they will progress to human trials.
This breakthrough represents a significant advancement in diabetes management, potentially offering patients a more convenient and effective alternative to daily insulin injections. The long-lasting effect of the smart insulin could improve patient compliance and quality of life by reducing the frequency of injections. As further research and development occur, this smart insulin could pave the way for transformative advancements in diabetes treatment.
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