Scientists working on smart insulin capsules for type 1 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on January 4, 2017

Smart capsules that could travel through the body might one day be able to release insulin when they come across high blood sugar levels, according to research being developed in the UK.

Scientists at the University of Birmingham are working on developing a capsule which can contain insulin that would melt away in the presence of sugar, but the the so called smart shell is still many years away from being a reality.

Capsules MedicineHowever, work done by Dr John Fossey, a senior lecturer in the school of chemistry at Birmingham University, is encouraging and he believes that it could be trialled on animals and then humans within five years.

‘We’re trying to create a system which will deliver insulin in response to glucose levels, releasing more if blood sugar is high. We can now recognise glucose in the body and my proposal is to take the same chemistry, take these molecules and build a container for insulin which will break open when it comes across glucose and deliver its cargo,’ he said.

‘The patient could be injected with these containers, say once a week, and they would slowly degrade in the presence of glucose to keep blood sugar at a constant level. Imagine if patients could go through a week without having to worry about their blood sugar levels, or injecting themselves,’ he explained.

‘I’ve talked to the parents of kids with type one diabetes and they say, if only my children could do things, like go to sleepovers, their lives would be so much better. Most parents aren’t confident enough to entrust injections to other adults,’ he added.

Fossey believes that it could be a step change in the management of type one diabetes as it could give people the freedom to live their lives without constantly worrying about monitoring their condition.

According to Sarah Johnson, director of mission at charity JDRF which is partly funding the research, it could be a life changing treatment for people with type 1 diabetes.

‘This early stage of research could lay the foundations for a glucose responsive insulin that would be injected once a day, or even a week, and respond to glucose levels just like a healthy pancreas,’ she said.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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