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Research into Smart Insulin

David Gregory-Kumar, BBC’s Science, Environment & Rural Affairs Correspondent, has reported on how ‘smart’ insulin could drastically reduce the number of injections diabetics would need to take, saying: “For people with Type 1 diabetes much of their time is spent controlling the disease by testing their blood and injecting insulin. For young people with diabetes it’s particularly complicated. But even old hands sometimes just experience ‘diabetes burnout’, where it all seems totally overwhelming. So the idea of ‘smart’ insulin, a way to deliver this essential drug without all the testing and injections, is hugely attractive. And now scientists in Birmingham are starting work on a delivery system that might allow them do just that.”

At the end of 2016, Gregory-Kumar visited Dr John Fossey at Birmingham University, who had just secured funding from JDRF for research into the smart insulin concept. “Dr Fossey and his team have used some very clever chemistry. To create a gel that only dissolves in the presence of glucose. Indeed he showed me how his gel disappears in a glucose solution while just sitting there in ordinary water. The idea is to load up the gel with insulin, then as the glucose levels rise in someone with diabetes. The gel dissolves and the insulin is release into their system. It would be an alternative to the current methods where a diabetic has to carry out blood tests, work out the right dose of insulin and then inject it. With the gel, the chemistry does all this automatically.”

Such gels are being research in other laboratories around the world, but Dr Fossey believes his gel has unique chemistry that makes it the best prospect for this sort of approach. It is very early stages in the research. After they’ve worked out the chemistry, the project will then move into a biology lab and then eventually, in about 10 years, there might see clinical trials in humans if it all goes well.

The research was also report on by The Telegraph, by Science Editor Sarah Knapton, who noted, “Dr Fossey explained that his proposal was to take gel molecules and build a container for insulin, which will break open when it comes across glucose and deliver its cargo. The patient could be injected with these containers, say once a week, and they would slowly degrade in the presence of glucose to keep blood sugar at a constant level.”

Sarah Johnson, Director of Mission at JDRF added, “We are pleased to be funding Dr Fossey’s work. This early stage of research could lay the foundations for a glucose responsive insulin that would be injected once a day, or even a week, and respond to glucose levels just like a healthy pancreas. This would be a life changing treatment for all those living with Type 1 diabetes.”

CLICK HERE for the Telegraph report.

CLICK HERE for the BBC report.

News items and features like this appear in the Desang Diabetes Magazine, our free-to-receive digital journal. We cover diabetes news, diabetes management equipment (diabetes kit) and news about food suitable for a diabetic diet. Go to the top of this page to sign up – we just need your email address.


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