Researchers have managed to make a benign patch of insulin-releasing beta cells for diabetics.
It’s been eons since scientists have been trying to copy the behavior of beta cells which release insulin. These tiny entities don’t work up to par in case of diabetics.
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To get injected with insulin everyday is a painful process for most of the people with diabetes. Besides, these injections are not proper substitutes for the real thing. The problem is that if beta cells are transplanted, they may be rejected by the recipient’s body due to immunity issues.
However, now scientists have found a way around these problems. An artificial patch with beta cells in it can release regular doses of insulin which in turn can control blood sugar.
A scanning electron microscopic (SEM) image of the microneedle-array patch developed in the lab of Zhen Gu, PhD.
There is no fear of becoming hypoglycemic either. This new biotechnology builds on the smart insulin patch. The patches are small and consist of tiny microscopic needles. They almost look like the proverbial bed of nails.
The only difference is that the smart insulin patch uses bubbles of insulin in its makeup while this latest patch employs beta cells that are integrated with the needles to deliver submininal doses of insulin to the patient.
The novel painless patch was tested on animals which had type 1 diabetes. It worked brilliantly. Lowering of high blood sugar rates for up to 10 hours was possible via this scheme. The study was published in the journal Advanced Materials.
Zhen Gu, PhD
“This study provides a potential solution for the tough problem of rejection, which has long plagued studies on pancreatic cell transplants for diabetes,” said senior author Zhen Gu, PhD, assistant professor in the joint UNC/NC State department of biomedical engineering.
“Plus it demonstrates that we can build a bridge between the physiological signals within the body and these therapeutic cells outside the body to keep glucose levels under control.”
The issue of rejection of foreign tissue had always bothered scientists. That was because the pancreatic transplants just did not stay intact long enough for the diabetics to benefit from them.
With this patch though things have been made simple although through a lot of complex hard work. The biggest benefit of this strategy is that the external arrangements and internal signals could be coordinated in order to generate stable blood sugar levels.
Beta cells are to be found in the pancreas. Whereas they act normally in case of ordinary people and release insulin with regularity, in case of diabetics, they seem to be damaged and don’t act with promptness.
Injecting insulin daily may lead to complications such as blindness and limb gangrene. It may even lead to diabetic coma and have fatal consequences. The painless patch is a work of modern medicine. It’s been tested in animals and remains to be tested in human beings.
“Managing diabetes is tough for patients because they have to think about it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the rest of their lives,” said co-author John Buse, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the UNC School of Medicine and director of the UNC Diabetes Care Center and the NC Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute.
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“These smart insulin approaches are exciting because they hold the promise of giving patients some time off with regards to their diabetes self-care. It would not be a cure but a desperately needed vacation.”