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Science
29 Dec 2017

Painless skin-patch for diabetics developed; no more painful insulin injections!

Scientists develop insulin stimulating skin patch for diabetics

One of the worst things about diabetes, apart from the life-threatening complications and increased risk of other health problems, is taking insulin injections every day to regulate blood sugar levels.

To put an end to this painful therapy, scientists have now developed a biochemically-formulated skin patch that controls blood sugar levels for several days in a painless manner.

Here's all about it!

In context

Scientists develop insulin stimulating skin patch for diabetics
Skin patch responds to blood chemistry, automatically controls glucose

Details

Skin patch responds to blood chemistry, automatically controls glucose

Researchers at the US's National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) developed a biochemically-formulated skin patch containing mineralized compounds.

It delivers drugs that interact with the bloodstream and regulate blood sugar levels for days together. The drugs reportedly stimulate insulin production in the body.

The scientists proved the effectiveness of the skin patch with "dissolvable microneedles" in an experiment conducted on mice.

About

What is diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when pancreas secretes no or insufficient insulin hormone into the bloodstream for regulating glucose. Insulin is responsible for the opening up of cells where glucose is stored or converted into energy.

There are three kinds of diabetes: Type 1 (no insulin production at all), Type 2 (body's ability to produce/use insulin decreases), gestational diabetes (in pregnant women with no previous diabetic history).

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NIBIB Scientific Director Richard Leapman's statement

Leapman said: "This experimental approach could be a way to take advantage of the fact that persons with type 2 diabetes can still produce some insulin. A weekly microneedle patch application would also be less complicated and painful than routines that require frequent blood testing."

Insulin therapy not managed well in half of cases

Insulin Therapy

Insulin therapy not managed well in half of cases

Diabetes, in which the patient's blood sugar levels are high for prolonged periods, can cause several complications if untreated. Complications include heart diseases, nerve and eye damage, kidney diseases, foot ulcers, stroke, etc.

Globally, there are 285 million diabetic patients. 90% of them have type 2 diabetes; most patients require insulin injections. But insulin therapy isn't managed well in half of the cases.

Study

Effectiveness of treatment proved after tests

Researchers at the US's NIBIB, led by Xiaoyuan Chen, are working on an alternative to insulin injections to regulate blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetic patients using a painless skin patch.

The research team had used the alternative treatment on mice for demonstrating the potential effectiveness of the therapy.

Their study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Patch has responsive delivery system; no more finger prick tests

Skin Patch

Patch has responsive delivery system; no more finger prick tests

Researchers developed the skin patch's base from alginate, natural gum-like brown algae extract.

It is infused with therapeutic agents (biochemicals) and poured into dissolvable microneedles to form a patch.

The biochemicals can stimulate the body to produce insulin when required; stimulation is curtailed when normal sugar levels are reached.

The patch delivers the drug for several days; it's not used up at once.

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