Most people afflicted with diabetes have to monitor their blood glucose levels 24/7 and inject themselves with insulin as needed. The holy grail of diabetes research has been the development of some kind of artificial pancreas that would allow for the automatic monitoring and adjustment of blood glucose, in effect a cure for the disease.
According to Science Alert, a group of researchers at the University of North Carolina has come up with a smart insulin patch, a medical device that works in the same way as a pancreas but is attached to the skin.
The patch contains microneedles, about the width of a human eyelash, which penetrate to the diabetic’s bloodstream. These microneedles contain sensors that monitor the blood glucose levels. When the levels are too high, beta cells that have been embedded in the patch secrete insulin through the needles and into the blood vessels to bring them down.
The patch has had good results in mouse studies, automatically regulating blood glucose in mice that have type 1 diabetes. The researchers found that the patch was more accurate in delivering just the right amount of insulin necessary than monitoring blood glucose with the usual pin-prick blood test. Diabetics have to be careful about injecting too little or too much insulin for fear of causing complications. The patch does that task automatically over the space of about 10 hours before it has to be changed.
A number of years of human trials lie between now and the time when the smart insulin patch can be available in a clinical setting. But the technology holds out the promise of liberating people living with diabetes from the burden of constant monitoring and injecting.
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