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Smart Synthetic Beta Cells to Boost Clinical Outcomes in Diabetics

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Published on : Oct 31, 2017

The treatment of diabetes-both type 1 and type 2-for long hinges on painful insulin shots for patients or insulin infusion through mechanical pumps. In this context, scientists have long researched on creating artificial pancreatic beta cells with the help of synthetic materials that can mimic a glucose-metabolism system. This system holds great promise for improving the clinical outcomes in diabetics. A team of researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a part of University of North Carolina Health Care System, have developed an artificial beta cells (A?Cs) that mimic the functions of pancreatic beta cells.

Considered as a highly patient-friendly option, these artificial beta cells can automate glucose-responsive insulin secretion into the bloodstream in response to a rise in glucose levels in patients. The experimental work was performed on diabetic mice and the study is published online in the journal Nature Chemical Biology on 30 October 2017. The smart therapeutics developed is useful for type 1 diabetes and some forms of type 2 diabetes as well.

Artificial Beta Cells Made with Smart Vesicles to Automate Insulin Secretion

The scientists injected diabetic mice lacking beta cells with insulin-loaded A?Cs once and found that these could normalize blood glucose levels in these rodents, for at least five days. With the vast incidence of diabetes in several developing and developed nations, the researchers have been investigating the use of synthetic cells in designing a robust insulin-delivery mechanism in small animals and humans.

Current insulin treatments, either through pills or by making transplants of pancreatic cells, are either inefficient or costly and complicated. Notably, the precise control of blood glucose levels by automatic means is not possible with the currently available pills to control diabetes. To address this notable challenge, the researchers used a specially designed, insulin payload stuffed with vesicles, which chemically respond to a rise in glucose levels, automating the release of insulin as blood glucose levels rise.

Further preclinical research are planned for developing a robust and a painless insulin delivery mechanism using cell-free skin patches for treating patients with diabetes.