For diabetics, leading a normal life means being dependent on external doses of insulin. Blood glucose levels must be monitored from time to time and appropriate amounts of insulin must be administered through syringes or insulin pumps. This is not an optimal solution though because blood glucose cannot be monitored constantly and the administered insulin might not always be the correct amount.
Researchers are looking for ways to automate the process of blood glucose monitoring and insulin pumping but it might still take a long time before both can be combined effectively into “artificial pancreas.” In another breakthrough, researchers have found a way to organically mimic the work of a blood glucose detector and insulin pump.
In a joint effort by the North Carolina State University, Boston Children’s Hospital, the University of North Carolina, and MIT, a new material has been synthesized that is sponge-like and can be chemically triggered to expand when it comes in contact with blood glucose. This material is commonly found in the shells of crabs and shrimps and is called chitosan.
How does it work?
The idea is to encapsulate insulin within a spherical structure made of this material. When the material comes in contact with a large enough concentration of blood glucose, its pores open up and release insulin until the blood glucose levels recede. After that the pores close back to contain the remaining insulin. Further research is needed to study its effects better to determine the safety of this process. If it is considered safe, it will open up possibilities for treating other diseases similarly.