The challenges of diabetes management
For people with type 1 diabetes (T1D), managing their condition involves regularly checking blood glucose levels and administering synthetic insulin injections to prevent dangerous blood glucose spikes.
This process can be painful and inconvenient, requiring multiple injections throughout the day, or an insulin pump that must be worn at all times.
A new approach to diabetes management
Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a new implantable diabetes management system that could provide a less painful and more convenient way for people with T1D to manage their condition.
The system consists of a fuel cell coated in alginate and an artificial beta cell capsule, which work together to produce and release insulin when blood glucose levels are high.
The science behind the implant
The fuel cell is designed to produce an electric current when glucose levels are high, and copper-based nanoparticles split glucose into gluconic acid and a proton.
The proton then triggers the artificial beta cells to secrete insulin, which reduces blood glucose levels. The system is designed to stop producing the current once blood glucose levels have returned to normal.
Promising results and future prospects
The implant has shown promising results in mice with T1D, but it is still in the prototype phase. It remains to be seen how long it could operate in a human body and what the implantation and removal processes would involve.
However, the researchers are hopeful that their system could provide a more convenient and less painful alternative for people with T1D, potentially even allowing for monitoring through a smartphone app.