Leaving Pumps in the Past: Little Tech with Big News for Treating Diabetes!

Leaving Pumps in the Past: Little Tech with Big News for Treating Diabetes!

By: Alex Parrott 

 

Insulin pumps have been and still are one of most convenient ways for diabetics to keep their blood sugar levels in check, but new studies in bioengineering are leading to smaller, less invasive, and more effective ways to treat diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease that can’t just be ignored for a day or even a moment. Every meal, activity, and minute that goes by changes a diabetics’ blood sugar level and as a result forces them to have a strict regimen on what they eat, what they do, and what their blood sugar levels are at all times. This constant need led to the development of the insulin pump. These devices are currently making the lives of diabetes exponentially less stressful and easier to manage, but still has its limitations and areas to improve.

Recent developments by Dr. Garcia-Tirado and others (see this woven for more on artificial pancreases!) have led to breakthroughs for insulin pumps, but there are still issues that constant injections cause for diabetics that are unavoidable. Whether the injection is from a pump insertion, continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) insertion, or insulin shot injection, they all lead to scar tissue formation. Since insulin injections are limited in location, over time injection sites are faced with the issue of scar tissue formation. This formation is inevitable and can lead to a decrease in insulin absorption or, for CGM, inaccurate readings. There are also issues with lapses in time with measurements to response or response to absorption. So how can these issues be fixed? The answer is nano tech!

The review by Wang, Li, Hu sheds light on the micro/nano world for diabetes treatment. The first method they discuss involves using implantable nanorobotics that can form a closed loop monitoring and delivery system. Typically made up of a hydrogel or similar biocompatible material, these nanorobotics allow for localized monitoring and delivery of a drug. In application to diabetes, this means that a measurement for blood glucose can be recorded locally at a specified  in vivo location by one robot and then transmitted to another nanorobot that can then locally deliver the right amount of insulin to correctly adjust for a change in blood sugar. This technology is growing fast and being pursued by many people! Check out our article on Bionaut Labs who recently received major funding for their work in closed loop, in vivo nanorobotic therapy. 

Another method discussed was microneedles and transdermal microneedle patches which would address the issue of scar tissue formation. Since these needles are smaller and not as penetrative as traditional insertions they are less likely to cause scar tissue, and if they did it would be minimal compared to current methods. This article by Yu et al, discusses a transdermal microneedle patch that is loaded with insulin and glucose responsive matrixes. When the matrixes are properly stimulated, they expand releasing insulin rapidly and efficiently. Similarly, this article by Wu et al discusses a transdermal drug delivery system that is powered by a triboelectric nanogenerator. This method has advantages for being noninvasive and self-powered since the triboelectric generator collects energy from movements! 

Wang, Li, Hu’s review discusses many more interesting methods for treating diabetes. All of these have promising methods that hopefully can one day be commercialized and allow for easier and more cost-effective means of treatment for diabetics! 

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