387 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, a chronic disease of which a complete therapy still doesn’t exist. However, it can be controlled by paying strict and constant attention to diet and by injecting insulin, even though the injections can be “inaccurate” and often cause complaint and pain, in order to maintain the right levels of sugar in the blood.
Research has been carried out in this field to find an easier, painless and more accurate alternatives to injections.
The question is how can all these problems be solved? The answer can be found in a study published by researchers of the University of North Carolina and NC state in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They created a insulin smart patch, which can be easily and quickly applied on the patient’s skin. How is it made and how does it work? The thin square-shaped patch is made of biocompatible materials (hyaluronic acid and 2-nitroimidazole) and is composed of over 100 tiny needles filled with insulin and glucose-sensing enzymes. When the levels of sugar in the blood become too high, the patch automatically releases enzymes.
Technically speaking, the patch works as the beta cells, which generate and store insulin in small sacs called vesicles. Beta cells also monitor the levels of sugar in the blood and send signals to realease insulin into the blood.
Zhen Gu, co-author of the study, claims not only that the patch is extremely practical, but he also explains that “the whole system can be adjusted on the weight of the diabetic person and on their sensitivity to insulin, in order to make the smart patch far smarter”, eliminating the problem of administrating an incorrect dose of insulin to the patient which may cause serious complications.
Furthermore, as stated by John Buse, co-author of the study, “The hardest part of diabetic therapy is not insulin injections, controlling sugar levels in the blood or regulating diet, but the fact that patients must do these things frequently for their whole life. A turning point would be to get these patches working for people”.