Scientists in China and Switzerland have developed hydrogel implants containing red light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and engineered cells that produce and release insulin in response to the far-red light emitted by the LEDs. The LEDs can be controlled wirelessly using a smartphone app, meaning that the scientists could control insulin levels in diabetic mice using the surgically implanted hydrogel capsules.
At present, people with diabetes often need to inject themselves several times a day to control their blood glucose levels. Scientists are trying to develop methods for insulin control that are needle and wire-free. This latest technology, recently reported in journal Science Translational Medicine, combines smartphone technology with living cells to achieve that goal.
Implanted beneath the skin of diabetic mice, the hydrogels were designed to hold the cells and LEDs together in the treated animals. The red LEDs in the hydrogel implants were activated wirelessly using an external electronic field and could be easily controlled using a smartphone app. The cells were optogenetically engineered to produce mouse insulin in response to far-red light, and the strength and duration of the LED illumination could be controlled.
Finally, the implants were paired with a Bluetooth-enabled glucose monitor, which provided direct feedback on how effectively the released insulin was affecting glucose levels. This allowed the mice to achieve and maintain stable glucose levels over the course of several weeks. The scientists hope that similar systems might one day be possible in humans, allowing for wireless diabetes monitoring and control.
Study in Science Translational Medicine. Smartphone-controlled optogenetically engineered cells enable semiautomatic glucose homeostasis in diabetic mice…