Smart Insulin Patch Monitors Blood Sugar and Releases Insulin on Demand

Smart Insulin Patch Monitors Blood Sugar and Releases Insulin on Demand

A blood sugar-monitoring smart insulin patch developed through the UNC-N.C. State Biomedical Engineering Program is now a step closer to coming to market following a major investment by the Chinese firm MicroPort Scientific.

MicroPort Scientific has invested $5.8 million in Zenomics Inc., the company formed by Zhen Gu, the lead researcher of the UNC-N.C. State Biomedical Engineering Program. Zenomics will be using the investment to fund the recruitment of new staff and to prepare for the first clinical trials of the patch.

The smart insulin patch, which is fixed to the skin, monitors blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels rise, the patch releases insulin on demand.

The patch is about the size of a dime and has 121 microneedles, each of which is capable of delivering small packets of insulin. The needles have a diameter less than a human hair and cause no discomfort. Glucose oxidase in the needles reacts to high glucose levels triggering the release of insulin.

There are currently 29 million people in the United States that have diabetes and need to regularly monitor their blood sugar levels and administer insulin. The finger prick tests are painful and insulin doses need to be precisely calculated.

A smart insulin patch is much more convenient and reduces to chance of excess insulin being administered. Further, by the time an individual determines that insulin is required, blood glucose levels may already have reached dangerously high levels.

In a healthy individual, insulin is released quickly when blood sugar levels start to rise.  Even the most advanced monitoring technologies currently being used have a lag of between 5 and 15 minutes. The aim of the smart insulin patch is to mimic the human body more closely and eliminate the lag time.

So far, the patch has been shown to be effective in mice, with the next stage of trails due to be conducted on mini-pigs before the company moves on to the first human trials. The human trials will determine whether the patch is effective at monitoring and controlling blood sugar levels in humans and will determine whether experience skin reactions from the patch.

Gu is confident the patch will be effective and will take the treatment of diabetes forward, significantly enhancing the lives of patients.

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