A new skin patch could end misery of daily insulin injections
Scientists have created the special patch which stimulates the body’s own insulin production – and is completely pain-free.
The new device could revolutionise treatment of the condition, which affects around four million people in the UK.
Researchers say the game-changing invention delivers a natural substance extracted from brown algae – completely removing the need for painful and unpleasant daily injections.
They claim the pain-free weekly ‘smart’ patch only releases the active ingredients when needed.
A weekly microneedle patch application would also be less complicated and painful
It stimulates the body’s own insulin production and control blood sugar levels.
The biochemically formulated treatment does this by delivering a natural substance, which is extracted from brown algae and mixed with therapeutic agents, through dissolvable microneedles which penetrate the skin.
Dr Richard Leapman, scientific director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) in Maryland, US, where the patch has been developed, 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.”
About four million people in the UK now have diabetes, with 90 per cent suffering from Type 2.
Type 1 is an auto-immune disease which cannot currently be cured.
Type 2 can be avoided by making lifestyle changes such as taking more exercise and eating a healthy diet.
An estimated 549,000 people have it but are unaware.
The condition is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation.
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And experts have warned that Britain is sitting on a diabetes timebomb with the number of prescriptions for type 2 sufferers rising by a third in five years from 26 million to 35 million.
Analysis of the shocking figures also reveals there are hotspots for the disease in London and Lincolnshire, with the London borough of Newham having twice the national average of prescriptions.
But experts say that with simple dietary changes, along with more exercise, could prevent huge number of Type 2 sufferers.
Last night, research bodies into the disease in the UK welcomed the announcement.
Douglas Twenefour is Deputy Head of Care at Diabetes UK.
Experts have warned that Britain is sitting on a diabetes timebomb
He said: “Type 2 diabetes is a complex condition that has a huge impact on the day to day lives of people living with it, and their families.
“Any innovative treatment option that is proven to lessen this impact is encouraging news.
“As this treatment has so far only been tested in mice, we look forward to the results of this particular research being replicated in humans to see how effective it may be for people with Type 2 diabetes.
“Specifically, we need to answer the practical question of who is more likely to benefit from this treatment.”
The smart patch offers a radical new alternative for treating sufferers of Type 2 diabetes.
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas
It is even designed to release the active ingredients fast when needed and to slow or stop when glucose levels stabilise.
And the US researchers say its effectiveness as a treatment has been proven after tests on mice.
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food that you eat.
It is secreted to move glucose from the bloodstream into cells where the sugar can be converted to energy or But In type 2 diabetes, the body’s ability to make or use insulin is progressively impaired.
Often patients require insulin therapy, usually by injection just under the skin, in amounts that are calculated according to individual’s deficit of the hormone in the blood.
However, according to the research team, insulin therapy is still not managed well in half of all cases.
So they argue that the new patch would offer a viable and painless alternative.
And unlike insulin injections, it need not be applied so often.
This substance it administers does not degrade in the bloodstream for an hour or more, so can have long-lasting effect after being released.
As a result, the team of researchers explained, the patch can meet the body’s need for days instead of being used up all at once.
Type 2 can be avoided by making lifestyle changes such as taking more exercise
Senior study head Dr Xiaoyuan Chen explained: “That’s why we call it responsive, or smart, release.”
He added: “Most current approaches involve constant release. Our approach creates a wave of fast release when needed and then slows or even stops the release when the glucose level is stable.”
The researchers found about half an inch square contained enough of the drug to control blood sugar levels in mice for a week.
The team is now hoping to determine the correct patch size for humans through further research before conducting trials on patients.
Dr Chen added: “Diabetes is a very serious disease and affects a lot of people. Everybody is looking for a long-acting formula.”