Painful` pinpricks may soon be history for diabetics
Washington – A new nanotechnology-based technique for regulating blood sugar in diabetics may give patients the ability to release insulin painlessly using a small ultrasound device, allowing them to go days between injections – rather than using needles to give themselves multiple insulin injections each day.
The technique involves injecting biocompatible and biodegradable nanoparticles into a patient’s skin. The nanoparticles are made out of poly(lactic-co-glycolic) acid (PLGA) and are filled with insulin.
Each of the PLGA nanoparticles is given either a positively charged coating made of chitosan (a biocompatible material normally found in shrimp shells), or a negatively charged coating made of alginate (a biocompatible material normally found in seaweed).
When the solution of coated nanoparticles is mixed together, the positively and negatively charged coatings are attracted to each other by electrostatic force to form a “nano-network.”
Once injected into the subcutaneous layer of the skin, that nano-network holds the nanoparticles together and prevents them from dispersing throughout the body.
The coated PLGA nanoparticles are also porous. Once in the body, the insulin begins to diffuse from the nanoparticles. But the bulk of the insulin doesn’t stray far – it is suspended in a de facto reservoir in the subcutaneous layer of the skin by the electrostatic force of the nano-network. This essentially creates a dose of insulin that is simply waiting to be delivered into the bloodstream.
Using the new technology developed by Dr. Zhen Gu, senior author of a paper on the research and an assistant professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill, and his team, a diabetes patient doesn’t have to inject a dose of insulin – it’s already there. Instead, patients can use a small, hand-held device to apply focused ultrasound waves to the site of the nano-network, painlessly releasing the insulin from its de facto reservoir into the bloodstream.
The study has been published online in Advanced Healthcare Materials.