Spring Appeal: The end of daily blood tests and injections?
With the help of our supporters, Dr John Fossey is developing a glucose-responsive or ‘smart’ insulin that could end the need for daily blood tests and injections.
‘What if people with type 1 could go a whole week without worrying about their blood glucose levels or needing to inject themselves?’ Dr. John Fossey, JDRF researcher
When people have type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Without enough insulin, the only option is to inject or infuse insulin manually. Even if insulin is taken this way, it’s difficult to control glucose levels all the time – and levels that rise can increase the risk of serious long-term damage to vital organs, while levels that are too low cause dangerous hypos.
This means people with type 1 must manage their blood glucose levels very carefully. On average, this involves taking eight finger-prick blood tests and having four insulin injections a day, which can be time-consuming and stressful.
A ‘smart’ insulin would give my son the freedom to reach his full potential.
Type 1 affects every aspect of my child’s life. Finding a solution is crucial and I believe research is the key. We need the best possible treatments, like ‘smart’ insulin, as soon as possible.
Nicola King, mum of Julian, aged 10.
An ingenious solution
Glucose-responsive or ‘smart’ insulins are being designed to only act when they are needed and remain inactive when they are not. These insulins would make hypos history and help ensure perfect glucose control throughout the day. Only one ‘smart’ insulin injection could be needed once a day – or even once a week.
What needs to happen now?
The problem is finding an effective way to carry the insulin in the bloodstream until it’s needed. Dr Fossey is working on creating tiny insulin ‘containers’ that break open and release insulin when glucose levels reach a certain level. When the blood glucose returns to the target level, the containers will stop opening, until the next high-glucose episode occurs.
He has already identified a compound that dissolves when it comes into contact with glucose. Now he wants to use this to develop and test a range of materials that could potentially become soluble ‘smart’ insulin containers.
If Dr Fossey’s team can make one of these containers work successfully, he hopes clinical trials with patients could follow.
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