New technology set to make managing diabetes easier

by Barbara Hewitt on February 10, 2014

A remote control that sends sound waves into the body to a tiny implant under the skin could replace daily insulin jabs for people with diabetes.

It is described as being like a TV remote which can be pointed at the upper arm where an implant with a reservoir of insulin allows the correct amount to seep into the blood stream.

diabetes research

The new technology is currently being tested by scientists and could be a potential replacement for insulin injections

The implant, around the size of a mobile phone SIM card can last for 10 days and is being seen by scientists as a potential replacement for insulin injections.

Inside each of the thousands of nanoparticles in the implant is a tiny amount of insulin. Half the particles are coated with a positive electrical charge and the other half a negative charge.

The two opposing charges are attracted to each other, sticking the particles together in a semisolid implant. When patients need an insulin boost, they hold the remote directly over the implant and press a button for 30 seconds. The sound waves make the particles vibrate and separate, releasing insulin.

The treatment is currently being tested by scientists at North Carolina State University in the United States. ‘This is hopefully a big step toward giving diabetics a more painless method of maintaining healthy blood sugar levels,’ said Dr Zhen Gu, who helped develop it.

The researchers believe the technique works because the ultrasound waves excite microscopic gas bubbles in the tissue, temporarily disrupting the nano-network in the subcutaneous layer of the skin. That disruption pushes the nanoparticles apart, relaxing the electrostatic force being exerted on the insulin in the reservoir. This allows the insulin to begin entering the bloodstream, a process hastened by the effect of the ultrasound waves pushing on the insulin.

‘We know this technique works and we think this is how it works, but we are still trying to determine the precise details,’ explained co researcher Dr. Yun Jing.

New technology is regarded as opening lots of possibilities for managing diabetes. Another example is in Australia where Diabetes Australia and eftpos have announced the launch of a free mobile app providing resources on how to prevent and manage the disease.

Due to be released in middle of 2014, it lets users enter information about their personal healthcare, lifestyle and dietary requirements. It also provides the latest news, research and medical product information relating to diabetes and will be available for all smart phones.

The app will be supported by a diabetes community awareness programme, particularly targeting healthy eating, lifestyle and prevention.

‘Diabetes is a very big and complex epidemic. In fact, it is fast becoming the largest disease epidemic ever to affect the world. We want to use 21st century devices such as mobile phones and tablets to empower people affected by diabetes to self-manage their condition, to make informed decisions by finding the best information,’ said Diabetes Australia chief executive officer Greg Johnson.

The app was developed by tilt+co and funded by a $1 million GiveBack donation from eftpos. ‘The new digital platform has the potential to provide practical, day to day help to people with diabetes, while the awareness campaign will encourage more Australians to adopt a healthier lifestyle,’ said eftpos chief executive officer Bruce Mansfield.

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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