“Smart Synthetic gel” provides glucose-responsive insulin delivery in diabetic mice

Main points  

  1.  The technology capitalized on sugars responsiveness to properties of boronic acid.

  2. They created a synthetic polymer gel – based insulin delivery device with a single catheter.

  3. The catheter exhibits an artificial pancreas like function inside the body

  4. Subcut implantation of the device in healthy  and diabetic mice  creates a closed loop system that is composed of a continuous glucose sensing  and skin layer regulating insulin release

  5. Through the closed-loop system, glucose metabolism glucose metabolism is controlled in response to interstitial glucose fluctuation under both insulins deficient and insulin resistance conditions which lasts for 3 weeks.

  6.  If successful in Humans, the smart gel could offer a user-friendly and economical disposable alternative.

  7. Also if successful it will offer a cost-effective way of managing diabetes in developing countries and in people who find it hard to motivate themselves to control diabetes.

Full details of the study click here 

It is important to note the gel is in its early stages of research and has only been tried on mice. So far the results are promising. Currently, the common modality of this treatment is a closed loop delivery system. A closed-loop delivery system is, in other words, an artificial pancreas, it is a continuous cycle of feedback information. When the BSL changes the monitor senses the change then sends the information to the pump which then changes the rate of insulin delivery.  But as the study points out this technology suffers from inaccuracy of dose control, requires continuous recalibration to avoid overdose.

The normal blood glucose levels are between 4 and 8, over 8 we have hyperglycemia symptoms include; Increased thirst, trouble concentration, increased thirst, frequent peeing and weight loss.   Symptoms of hypoglycemia include; heart palpitations, fatigue, anxiety, hunger and as hypoglycemia progresses it may cause visual disturbances, seizures, and loss of consciousness.

Currently, diabetes is one of the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in western countries. We have two types of diabetes 1 and 2. When it comes to either type 1 or type 2 diabetes to understand how it develops, we first have to understand the workings of insulin.

Insulin is produced by beta cells of the island of Langerhans, insulin acts as a key that unlocks the insulin receptors when it senses that the blood glucose levels go up.   So that the glucose can be absolved in the muscles for later use in a form of energy. In other words, you need the beta 2 cells to secrete insulin in order for you absorb glucose after a meal.

Diabetes can either be caused by not enough production of insulin to unlock the insulin receptors at the surface of the cells like we see in diabetes 1. The main cause of this is the production of auto-antibodies that attacks the beta cells of the pancreas that produce insulin.

This leads to an increase in blood glucose levels which causes an individual to develop diabetes Mellitus. In type 2 diabetes, the beta cells produce insulin but the cells due to constant stimulation of the cells, they become resistant to the effect of insulin and eventually become desensitized.

With diabetes 2 you can train the pancreas to reduce the production of insulin through diet. Think of resistance like wearing glasses, the first few days of wearing glasses you can tell that the glasses are on your nose, but the more you wear glasses the less you take note of the frame around your eyes.

This is why obesity is one of the risk factors that increases an individuals chance of developing diabetes type 2. If you eat food that has a high glycemic index, your body will keep on producing sugar that in the long will cause desensitization of the cells.

Finally, the “smart gel” research is still in its early stages and further studies are required in order to use this technology in a clinical setting.

I know it is only in mice, if successfull, the technology has potential to change a lot of people lives.

If you want to read the actual research paper the link is provided here

Reseach article was first published in 2017, no further research has been published since then.



Matsumoto, A., Tanaka, M., Matsumoto, H., Ochi, K., Moro-oka, Y., Kuwata, H., … & Kataoka, K. (2017). Synthetic “smart gel” provides glucose-responsive insulin delivery in diabetic mice. Science advances3(11), eaaq0723.








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