New Smart Insulin Could Revolutionise Life for Diabetics

by Barbara Hewitt on February 12, 2015

Scientists have developed a smart insulin that could revolutionise the way diabetes is treated and do away with constant monitoring of blood sugar levels.

It would also make injecting insulin on a daily basis a thing of the past for people with type 1 diabetes, according to the researchers from the University of Utah in the United States.

They have successfully used the smart insulin, called Ins-PBA-F, in mice and found that it quickly normalises blood sugar levels over a minimum of 14 hours. They now want to test it on humans but it being made for general use is still many years away.


Smart insulin, called Ins-PBA-F, quickly normalises blood sugar levels over a minimum of 14 hours

The tests have been hailed a success with just one injection of the smart insulin automatically lowering blood sugar level after mice were given amounts of sugar comparable to what they might consume at a meal time.

They also found that Ins-PBA-F, acts more quickly and is better at lowering blood sugar, than long acting insulin detimir, marketed as LEVIMIR, which many type 1 diabetics currently use.

It is hoped that if the next stage of the development goes well in the future people with type 1 diabetes could inject the insulin once a day, or even less frequently, overcoming the need for constant self-monitoring and insulin top ups after meals.

‘Diabetic patients still need to guess to some extent how much insulin they need. With this you would just inject it and it wouldn’t matter if you overshot because its activity would stop when glucose levels get too low,’ said Danny Chou, a chemical biologist who led the research at the University of Utah.

Taking too much insulin can drive blood sugar levels too low, leading to hypoglycaemia and it is estimated that such episodes are responsible for around 10% of deaths in type 1 diabetes.
Taking too little insulin means blood sugar levels are consistently too high, which can lead to serious complications in the long term, such as blindness and nerve damage.

‘In theory, with this there would be none of these glucose problems. My goal is to make life easier and safer for diabetics. This is an important advance in insulin therapy,’ said Dr Chou, adding that the team at the university hope to test the treatment in patients within two to five years.

‘For many people living with type 1 diabetes, achieving good blood glucose control is a daily battle,’ said Karen Addington, chief executive of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in the UK.

‘A smart insulin would eliminate hypos, which are what many with type 1 diabetes hate most. It would enable people with type 1 diabetes to achieve near perfect glucose control, all from a single injection per day or even per week. That’s really exciting,’ she added.

According to Dr Richard Elliott, of leading charity Diabetes UK, the approach has the potential to make it easier for people with diabetes to manage their condition, but cautioned that the progress towards clinical versions of the treatment could be slow.

‘Years of further research and clinical trials will be needed to find out if a similar drug could be used safely and effectively by people with diabetes,’ he added.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the 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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