Artificial Insulin-Releasing Cells Used to Treat Diabetes in Mice

Artificial Insulin-Releasing Cells Used to Treat Diabetes in Mice

The treatment of diabetes requires patients to regularly monitor their blood sugar levels and administer insulin injections; however, if artificial-insulin releasing cells could be introduced, this would greatly improve the lives of many individuals.

Currently there are more than 400 million people around the world that have been diagnosed with diabetes. If a new therapy could be developed that could reduce the need to monitor blood sugar levels and administer insulin, it would allow patients to lead more fulfilling lives and not be bound by the disease to such a high degree.

The transplantation of genetically reprogrammed real cells for use in the treatment of diabetes is hampered by the problems associated with collecting and altering the cells. Artificial insulin-releasing cells on the other hand could be mass produced, making them a viable treatment option for millions of patients. Artificial insulin-releasing cells would also have the advantage of a longer shelf-life.

The use of artificial insulin-releasing cells may seem a long way off, although researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have conducted a study on mice which has produced extremely positive results.

Artificial insulin-releasing cells were created from human-derived proteins and contain pouches filled with insulin, mimicking real beta cells. When blood sugar levels rise, the insulin sac fuses with the outer membrane and insulin is released into the bloodstream. When blood sugar levels fall, fusion with the membrane stops and insulin is no longer released.

One problem with artificial cells, which do not manufacture insulin, is eventually they will run out of insulin to release. However, in this study, the cells were able to release insulin and normalize blood sugar levels within an hour and continued to regulate blood sugar levels for up to five days. If similar activity occurred in humans, patients would only be required to administer a single injection every few days.

The study – Synthetic beta cells for fusion-mediated dynamic insulin secretion – was recently published in the journal, Nature Chemical Biology.