Insulin-delivery patch edges toward human trials
Back in 2015, we heard about a skin patch that had been used to treat diabetes in mice. It's now come a step closer to use on humans, as it's been successfully trialed on diabetic pigs.
The device is being developed via a collaboration between scientists at UCLA, MIT and the University of North Carolina (UNC). It's intended to be adhered to the skin like a band-aid, with a single patch being good for one day of use.
On the underside of the patch is an array of insulin-containing microneedles, each one measuring less than a millimeter in length. When the patch is initially applied, those needles penetrate the top layer of skin, causing little if any discomfort.
The glucose-sensitive polymer from which they're made then proceeds to "read" the patient's blood glucose levels. If those levels should begin to rise considerably, the polymer swells up, releasing its insulin payload into the bloodstream. In this way, patients are able to maintain normal glucose levels without conducting daily finger-prick blood tests, or giving themselves glucose-regulating insulin injections.
In the most recent experiments, single "quarter-sized" patches were successfully used to control blood glucose levels in miniature pigs with type 1 diabetes, for a period of 20 hours. The average weight of the animals was 55 lb (25 kg).
FDA approval is now being sought for human clinical trials, which the scientists believe could begin within a few years.
"It has always been a dream to achieve insulin-delivery in a smart and convenient manner," says UNC's Dr. John Buse, co-author of the study. "This smart insulin patch, if proven safe and effective in human trials, would revolutionize the patient experience of diabetes care."
A paper on the research, which is being led by UCLA's Prof. Zhen Gu, was published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.
Source: University of North Carolina