Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in many countries. Millions of people are diagnosed with new-onset diabetes each year, while millions already suffer from the disease. The regulation of blood sugar in the body is extremely important if you have diabetes, as steadily high blood sugar can lead to damage of vital organs such as kidneys and the heart.
Insulin in the hormone is responsible for the breakdown of sugar. The absence of insulin production or resistance of body cells to the enzyme can be a cause of diabetes.
To keep the blood sugar level under control, some patients have to get insulin shots while other patients rely on treatments such as medication to manage their diet to reduce the intake of sugar in any form.
Insulin patches are a common form of blood sugar management. In this treatment, a periodic dose of insulin is given to the body to manage sugar levels. However, too much insulin is also not good as it can lead to low blood sugar, causing fatigue and dizziness.
Novel insulin molecule can sense blood sugar levels and self-adjust activity
A team of European scientists has developed a novel insulin molecule that can sense blood sugar levels, and adjust its activity according to the patient’s needs. The molecule has only been tested in animals, but researchers are hopeful that it will offer diabetics a safer and easier insulin therapy in the future.
Knud Jensen, an author of the new research from the University of Copenhagen explains, “The difficult thing with diabetes is that insulin always works the same way.” “It lowers blood sugar, even though that might not be what a patient requires.”
He further said that the story of a type 1 diabetes patient passing away due to being given insulin at the wrong time compelled him to develop a safer way for insulin therapy. The patient was feeling unwell, thinking that it was due to high blood sugar, he was administered insulin. However, that dose of insulin eventually led to his death.
“That is why we have developed the first step towards a kind of insulin that can self-adjust according to a patient’s blood sugar level,” says Jensen. “This has tremendous potential to vastly improve the lives of people with type 1 diabetes.”
“The molecule constantly releases a small amount of insulin, but varies according to need,” says Jensen. “It will give type 1 diabetes patients a safer and easier treatment.”
The efficiency of the insulin molecule has been proved by the study. It showed that the molecule can respond to blood sugar fluctuations in mice.
However, the team of researchers admits that it is a long road ahead before such a treatment hits the markets. Even their research is in the preliminary stages and is yet to prove efficacy and safety in human models.
“We’ve tested the insulin molecule on rats and it has proven itself effective,” says Jensen. “The next step is to develop the molecule so that it works more rapidly and accurately. And finally, to test it in humans – a process that can take many years. But it is certainly worth pinning one’s hopes on.”
The new study was published in Chemistry, A European Journal.