Scientists have created pain-free insulin patches that could mean the end to sore finger prick tests and injections for millions with diabetes.
The innovative skin patches are applied weekly and stimulate insulin production in the body helping bring blood-sugar levels under control.
Covered in soluble micro-needles, which sound irritating but aren’t, the patch delivers a treatment into the body.
The substance although formed in a lab is actually made from entirely natural ingredients including brown algae and therapeutic agents.
The speed at which the treatment is released automatically adjusts depending upon the glucose levels in the body.
It can release the substance quickly when needed or gradually until levels stabilise.
The US research team behind the smart patches has said its effectiveness has been proven following successful tests on mice.
Designed for those with type 2 diabetes, Dr Richard Leapman, scientific director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) in Maryland, believes that the treatment can help the 371 million people worldwide who suffer from the disease which is on the rise.
With diabetes also being a major cause of heart attacks, strokes, lower limb amputation, blindness and kidney failure, these patches could even save lives.
As reported by The Daily Mail, Dr. Leapman said:
This experimental approach could be a way to take advantage of the fact that persons with type 2 diabetes can still produce some insulin.
A weekly microneedle patch application would also be less complicated and painful than routines that require frequent blood testing.
Insulin is a hormone naturally produced by the body that lets your body convert sugar from the food you eat into energy.
But if you have type 2 diabetes your body struggles to either produce or use insulin.
These people therefore normally rely on injections and finger prick tests which, as noted by the research team, is not managed well in over half of all cases.
A patch therefore would not only be a less painful way to manage blood-sugar, but also much, much easier as it can sustain the body for days.
Current insulin treatments normally only last a few hours as the body uses it all up at once.
Speaking about the patches, senior investigator Dr. Xiaoyuan Chen added:
That’s why we call it responsive, or smart, release.
Most current approaches involve constant release. Our approach creates a wave of fast release when needed and then slows or even stops the release when the glucose level is stable.
Diabetes is a very serious disease and affects a lot of people. Everybody is looking for a long-acting formula.
The team discovered that a square that measured only half an inch was able to control the blood-sugar levels in a mouse’s body for a week.
The scientists are now researching what size patch a human needs.
Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.