New technology has been making an impact on how diabetics control their blood sugar levels. A combination of a wearable glucometer and insulin pump, connected via a smart control mechanism, can function as an artificial pancreas, but researchers at University of California Los Angeles, University of North Carolina, and MIT have created and now tested an electronics-free wearable patch that automatically releases insulin based on rising glucose levels.
The stick-on device is about the size of a U.S. quarter coin and features dozens of tiny needles loaded with insulin. They’re less than a millimeter in length and made out of a polymer that’s sensitive to glucose. As glucose concentration reaches a preset level, the needles begin releasing the insulin stored inside of them. When sugar levels come down, the insulin release slows down as well.
“Our main goal is to enhance health and improve the quality of life for people who have diabetes,” said Zhen Gu, PhD, professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering and a former professor in the UNC/NCSU Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering. “This smart patch takes away the need to constantly check one’s blood sugar and then inject insulin if and when it’s needed. It mimics the regulatory function of the pancreas but in a way that’s easy to use.”
So far the new patches were tested on mice and pigs with type 1 diabetes. In pigs they were able to keep glucose levels in control for about 20 hours. Since the needles within the patch are so short, they shouldn’t cause much pain compared to much longer finger prick lancets and traditional injection needles, while working quickly and automatically to prevent hypoglycemia.
According to the researchers, the technology is cheap to manufacture and one day people with diabetes will hopefully be able to put on one of these patches in the morning and not worry about their glucose levels throughout the rest of the day.
Flashbacks: Skin Patch Automatically Releases Insulin to Control Blood Sugar; Forget Insulin Injections: New Patches Integrate Pancreatic Beta Cells to Control Blood Glucose; Smart Glucose Responsive Patch for Insulin Delivery to Replace Injections
Study in Nature Biomedical Engineering: Glucose-responsive insulin patch for the regulation of blood glucose in mice and minipigs