Nanotech for more accurate, timely insulin delivery

Wednesday, 15 March, 2023

Nanotech for more accurate, timely insulin delivery

Researchers have developed a system that releases insulin precisely and smartly only when the body actually needs it, eliminating the need for people with type 1 diabetes to measure their glucose levels.

Findings of the preclinical study that engineered a superior artificial pancreas system to release insulin have been published in the journal Advanced Materials. The project was led by Monash University, in partnership with RMIT University, The University of Melbourne and the Baker Institute.

Current insulin therapy requires people to monitor their blood sugar throughout the day and take multiple, carefully calculated doses based on food intake, exercise, stress, illness and other factors. Some must inject themselves up to five times a day.

Continuous glucose monitoring devices remove, or at least reduce, the need for finger pricks, and insulin pumps can automatically deliver insulin, but they are very expensive and still are not always able to calculate the correct amount of insulin to be given.

The multidisciplinary team developed their artificial pancreas system using phytoglycogen nanoparticles, which are chains on glucose molecules dubbed a ‘nanosugar platform’, to deliver and release insulin in response to glucose levels in the blood.

This engineered nanosugar platform enabled rapid and sustained glucose-responsive insulin delivery, which was longer-lasting and smarter than other systems.

Co-first authors Dr Rong Xu from the Monash University Central Clinical School’s Australian Centre for Blood Diseases, and Dr Sukhvir Kaur Bhangu from RMIT University and The University of Melbourne, said if it worked in humans, only two injections would be needed per day.

Xu said it required only one injection every 12 hours and was self-regulated. “This system would mean fewer injections and, potentially, no need to measure glucose,” Xu said.

The research emerged from an NHMRC Ideas Grant, awarded to co-lead author and Head of Monash University’s Australian Centre for Blood Diseases NanoBiotechnology Laboratory Professor Christoph Hagemeyer, co-lead author and RMIT Associate Professor Francesca Cavalieri, and co-author Professor Frank Caruso from The University of Melbourne to develop this revolutionary type of insulin.

Hagemeyer said more research was needed but the results were promising. He said the nanosugar platform was biodegradable, which enabled rapid and extended glucose control in two different models of type 1 diabetes with a single injection.

“The nanosugar particles are engineered to control insulin release and absorption through the lymphatic system into the blood,” he said.

Cavalieri said the research team, which includes several clinicians, now hope to secure funding to continue the project and eventually undertake clinical trials. “This new method is not only efficient, it’s biodegradable and uses natural methods, which significantly reduces the chances of adverse effects or immune reactions,” she said.

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