Diabetes affects over 400 million people worldwide. Diabetics are either unable to produce insulin or their bodies are insensitive to it. Because of this, many need to monitor their blood glucose levels and inject insulin to control their blood sugar. But new research could potentially make this process easier and safer through a “smart” insulin patch.

Researchers have developed a microneedle patch that is loaded with nanoparticles that sense high glucose levels and then release insulin, making it a “smart” delivery system. It’s a pretty cool process- an enzyme that becomes active when glucose levels are high triggers the release of insulin. In mouse studies in the laboratory, researchers were able to control blood glucose levels for several hours.

The hope is that this technology can be adapted to work in humans. This patch could make insulin delivery safer by removing some of the human error- the enzymes would automatically deliver insulin when blood glucose levels go down. While it can’t work as quickly as pancreatic beta cells, it could still be a big help to diabetics. The next step is to test this technology in pigs, because their skin and body size are more comparable to a human. Read more about this research here.

Microneedle technology is pretty interesting. Recently, scientists have worked to develop a measles vaccine in the form of a 1-cm microneedle patch, and the technology has also been used to create an adhesive that could make skin grafting easier.

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