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Type 2 diabetes sufferers are forced to inject themselves up to twice a day in order to keep their blood sugar levels stable. The injections can be painful, and because the body processes the insulin so quickly, sufferers often experience ‘peaks and troughs’ in their mood, along with a myriad of other complications.
But this could all be a thing of the past, as in recent weeks we have seen media attention on a new form of medication which could revolutionise the treatment of diabetes. Researchers from Duke University in North Carolina have been working on a new method of insulin administration, which could reduce the amount of injections to one a month as opposed to twice a day; a breakthrough for those who are living with diabetes.
Insulin is a peptide – a compound consisting of two or more amino acids – which regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates in the body. Even though they are extremely effective in what they are designed to do, they do not reach their full potential as the insulin is rapidly broken down in the blood stream, and so cleared very quickly from the body. This is why diabetics must inject multiple and frequent doses in order to make sure they consistently have enough in their system to stay healthy.
Researchers in North Carolina are trialling a new type of injectable liquid made of “fusion protein” that consists of multiple copies of a peptide drug which is fused to a polymer - a substance that has a molecular structure which is built mostly or totally from a large number of similar units that are bonded together. This new compound is sensitive to body heat, and here lies the key.
What you see in the syringe is a thin liquid, much like the traditional insulin shot, however, once the liquid has been injected under the skin it turns into a jelly-like consistency as it reacts to body heat.
As the medication is injected the enzymes in the skin attack the drug which in turn releases the peptide in to the body and provides constant and controlled release of the drug over time. This means that the medication is delivered more effectively and over a longer time frame.
At Duke University, the drug delivery system they have created made a single injection last for 5 days. This is already 120 times longer than what the current jabs offer, meaning great results are in the pipeline.
Ashutosh Chilkoti, professor of biomedical engineering at Duke-based Pratt School of Engineering has said that “for a patient with Type 2 diabetes it would be much more desirable to inject such a drug once a week or once a month rather than once or twice a day.”
As it stands, these tests have only been carried out on mice, so it will take a few more years until it is made readily available to Type 2 diabetics; however researchers are on the right track to revolutionising lives and making diabetes that little bit easier to cope with.
The full report was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.