Diabetics could one day use remote-activated insulin-releasing device instead of needles

June 1, 2020

People with diabetes have trouble metabolising glucose, asbeta cells in the pancreas are unable to sense spikes in blood sugar levels and produce insulin in response. While the problem is usually overcome using regular insulin injections, researchers from ETH Zurich, in Switzerland, have developed a prototype device that allows users to instead give themselves a boost of insulin through remote-control electrical jolts.

According to the ETH team, each device contains isa capsule of engineered human beta cells, connected to a printed circuit board (PCB) – when the PCB is activated by a radio signal, an electrical signal is transmitted to stimulate calcium and potassium channels in the beta cells; it triggers the expression of the insulin gene, thus releasing insulin, within just a few minutes.

The team tested the device by implanting it beneath the skin of mice with type-1 diabetes. The researchers were able to wirelessly control the insulin release, which peaked within 10 minutes of activation. The device was enough to restore normal blood glucose levels in the mice.

In humans, the device could be easily implanted beneath the skin of a patient with diabetes and monitored either by the patient or their doctor, to release insulin on demand: “We’ve wanted to directly control gene expression using electricity for a long time; now we’ve finally succeeded,” said Martin Fussenegger from ETH Zurich.

“A device of this kind would enable people to be fully integrated into the digital world and become part of the Internet of Things – or even the Internet of the Body.”


Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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