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Injectable nanoparticles maintain normal blood-sugar levels for up to 10 days

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May 5, 2013

The nano-network that releases insulin in response to changes in blood sugar

The nano-network that releases insulin in response to changes in blood sugar

Aside from the inconvenience of injecting insulin multiple times a day, type 1 diabetics also face health risks if the dosage level isn’t accurate. A new approach developed by US researchers has the potential to overcome both of these problems. The method relies on a network of nanoscale particles that once injected into the body, can maintain normal blood sugar levels for more than a week by releasing insulin when blood-sugar levels rise.

The injectable nano-network is made up of a mixture that contains nanoparticles with a solid core or insulin, modified dextran (which is commonly used to reduce blood viscosity), and glucose oxidase enzymes. When exposed to high levels of glucose, the enzymes convert glucose into gluconic acid, which breaks down the modified dextran to release the insulin. The gluconic acid and dextran, which are biocompatible, dissolve in the body, while the insulin brings the glucose levels under control.

The nanoparticles are given a positively or negatively charged biocompatible coating so that when they are mixed together, they are attracted to each other to form a “nano-network.” The positively charged coatings are made of chitosan, a material found in shrimp shells that has also found applications in self-healing car paint, while the negatively charged coatings are made of alginate, a material normally found in seaweed.

“This technology effectively creates a ‘closed-loop’ system that mimics the activity of the pancreas in a healthy person, releasing insulin in response to glucose level changes,” says Dr. Zhen Gu, an assistant professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “This has the potential to improve the health and quality of life of diabetes patients.”

The technology, which was developed by researchers at NC State, UNC Chapel Hill, MIT and Children’s Hospital Boston, has been found to maintain normal blood-sugar levels in animal-based laboratory tests for more than a week, with discussions currently underway to move into clinical trials for humans.

The team’s paper appears online in ACS Nano.

Source: North Carolina State University

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
8 Comments

Or you can stop eating fructose and maintain your sugar levels, like, forever.

shawnhcorey
6th May, 2013 @ 06:02 am PDT

If only it was that easy. I do not eat fructose, but still need insulin shots to maintain proper blood sugar control.

David Crowell
6th May, 2013 @ 06:51 am PDT

Not consuming fructose is not enough for Type 1 diabetics. All carbohydrates break down into sugar and require insulin. In fact, it is the carbohydrate amounts in food that dictate the amount of insulin required for a meal. So while it's theoretically possible to never eat anything with a single carbohydrate, it's certainly not feasible or healthy to do so. Your body is not designed to function without insulin, which is why uncontrolled type 1 diabetes results eventually in death.

As a type 1 diabetic myself, something like this would be a miracle.

Mike Baker
6th May, 2013 @ 08:15 am PDT

Shawn, do you even know how diabetes works?

Ironghost
6th May, 2013 @ 08:35 am PDT

shawnhcorey: Even if you don't eat fructose, your body still requires insulin to live. People with Type 1 Diabetes do not produce their own insulin, so need it injected. Do a little research before making comments like this.

madamekerr
6th May, 2013 @ 08:39 am PDT

@shawnhcorey -

Type 1 diabetes doesn't work that way. Everything you eat is converted to glucose for energy, and type 1 diabetics lack the chemical (insulin) that allows our cells to absorb the energy from glucose. You have to eat, or you die, so we need insulin to maintain our sugar levels.

buzinga
6th May, 2013 @ 09:42 am PDT

Actually, all of you are a little right, and a little wrong.

Fructose is the RECOMMENDED form of sugar that a type 1 diabetic should be consuming, when compared to the kind of sugar that is used in baking, or that you would put in your coffee. It is also the recommended form of sugar to treat a low blood sugar, as it has a lower glycemic index than artificial sugars do.

Not eating any form of carbohydrates would not allow a type 1 diabetic to not require insulin. Your body creates sugar through a form of adrenaline, designed to give you more energy when you need it. Whether it be caused by stress, or physical activity, your body is always producing this adrenaline that needs to be counter-acted with insulin, in order to maintain a stable blood sugar level, regardless of if you have ate anything. Hence why we always have to do fasting blood sugar tests typically when we get our A1C done, to verify that our long acting insulin dosages are correct (or that our basal rates are correct if you are a pump user).

So this is in fact the end all be all for a type 1 diabetic. What I am curious to know, is if the insulin that is released on demand by this nano network is artificial insulin, or if it is insulin that our own body is producing.

Rick Warren
8th May, 2013 @ 02:11 pm PDT

Rick Warren, you haven't got it right either.

Fructose is metabolised in the liver, and forms triglycerides. It's been linked with artherosclerosis. Eat only fructose if you want to die of that, or become type 2 diabetic as well as type 1.

Adrenaline only triggers the liver to release glucose (by converting stored glycogen). The glycogen was stored thanks to previous glucose and insulin. Same triggered release from the liver with Cortisol and of course glucagon. If your liver stores are depleted, this won't work. Some also is believed to be stored in the kidneys as well.

The insulin would not have been produced by the body of a type 1, since they can't produce insulin. It's probably rDNA.

We never do fasting tests with HbA1C.

Adrien
20th February, 2014 @ 04:01 pm PST
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