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'Smart' patch could nix insulin injections

July 13, 2015
by Richard R. Rogoski
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A team of researchers in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and N.C. State University in Raleigh are developing a "smart" patch that could eliminate daily insulin injections for those with advanced diabetes.

Results of a study using mice models were published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The penny-sized patch being developed is covered with more than a hundred microneedles that store miniature bubbles containing insulin and glucose-sensing enzymes.

When the enzyme (glucose oxidase) reacts with high levels of blood glucose it causes the bubbles containing insulin to burst, which sends the insulin through the microneedles and into the bloodstream.

“We have designed a patch for diabetes that works fast, is easy to use, and is made from nontoxic, biocompatible materials,” said co-senior author Zhen Gu, PhD, a professor in the Joint UNC/NC State Department of Biomedical Engineering, in a press release. “The whole system can be
 personalized to account for a diabetic’s weight and sensitivity to insulin, so we could make the smart patch even smarter.”

John Buse, MD, PhD, co-senior author of the paper and the director of the UNC Diabetes Care Center, added:  “The hard part of diabetes care is not the insulin shots, or the blood sugar checks, or the diet but the fact that you have to do them all several times a day every day for the rest of your life. If we can get these patches to work in people, it will be a game changer.”