Till date, most of those afflicted with diabetes need to inject themselves many times a day to keep their blood glucose levels under control. This has egged scientists to come up with a better solution – one that will do away with the needle for insulin control. Very recently a team of scientists from China have inched closer in that direction with positive results from their research combining smartphone technology with living cells which has been reported in Science Translational Medicine.
How it functions?
They developed a hydrogel that can be implanted beneath the skin of a diabetic mice. Those contained red light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and optogenetically engineered cells that respond to the far-red light discharged by the LEDs to produce and release insulin. Using a smartphone the LEDs can be managed remotely. This enabled the scientists to control insulin levels in diabetic mice through the hydrogel capsules that were embedded using a surgical procedure.
The scientists hope to replicate the mechanism in millions of diabetic people for wireless diabetes monitoring and control. Currently, such patients need to go through periodic blood tests to determine if shots are required. This method is intrusive and painful. It is inconvenient too as unprecedented increase or drop in glucose levels can result on account of different reasons such as the type or amount of food eaten or because of exercising. In the new method tested on mice, such difficulties can be overcome through a closed loop system in which insulin is produced within the body and distributed only when needed.