Nanotechnology May Reduce Insulin Injections

nano technology diabetesBecause diabetes is a growing concern for researchers and doctors all over the world, there are a number of technological advances that are constantly being tested and developed to help those with the disease to achieve a higher quality of life. Some of the advances have been in the realm of monitoring blood glucose levels; newer-generation kits aim to make the experience less unpleasant, and for those who are tired of purchasing aviva test strips or freestyle lancets, some researchers are testing technology that may make it possible to avoid constant blood-draws altogether, mostly using developing items in nanotechnology and other fields. Adding to this research is a recent technique that may make it possible for those diabetics who take insulin to limit the number of injections they take per day to one. Certainly, if the technique bears out for humans, it will at the very least make it so that a diabetic’s syringe supply lasts much longer, so that they have less of a need for insulin syringes.

The technique is being developed by research teams from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, and involves an initial injection but does not require the multiple injections per day that current treatments frequently need. Many people with type one diabetes—and some with advanced type two diabetes—can require up to four injections per day, and although it is possible to find cheap insulin syringes, the cost can add up quickly; particularly since to avoid infection or complications, a new syringe is needed every time. The initial injection delivers nanoparticles of a substance called PLGA, which are filled with insulin. The nanoparticles hold the insulin in suspension within the blood stream until they are activated by an ultrasound device. While this does not obviate the need for products such as aviva test strips or freestyle lancets for the purposes of monitoring blood glucose levels, the new technique does mean that multiple doses of insulin can be taken from one injection over the course of the day.

The research is currently in a laboratory stage; tests have been conducted only on mice, but the results have been promising. The mice in the study were able to maintain blood glucose control for ten days before a further injection of nanoparticles was needed. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that in transitioning from mice to humans, many tweaks would be needed to make this particular technique applicable. But consider that even if this technology makes it possible for diabetics to take a single daily injection instead of several per day, it would be a huge benefit to the quality of life that diabetics can expect. It would represent a large degree of cost savings on diabetic supplies; cheap insulin syringes would become even cheaper, since they wouldn’t be used up as quickly, and a diabetic’s syringe supply would last longer. The researchers are pleased with the results, and are looking to move forward with development; they cite that not only does this make it easier for diabetics to maintain blood sugar control, but it also makes it possible to limit the risk for infection—because with fewer injections, there are fewer chances for microbes to get past the skin.

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