Remote smartphone app-controlled device could replace insulin injections

Jack Woodfield
Thu, 27 Apr 2017
Remote smartphone app-controlled device could replace insulin injections
A new device which has been developed could eventually be used to replace insulin injections for people with diabetes, researchers have said.

Scientists from East China Normal University in Shanghai, China used mice to test insulin-producing cells placed within a capsule, implanted under the skin which were controlled remotely.

The cells work with LED lights, which have been designed to respond to infrared light that release insulin when blood sugar levels get too high.

The light intensity is controlled using a specially designed smartphone app which communicates via a server that switches on an electromagnetic field coil surrounding the mice.

Through testing the technology, the research team managed to stabilize the diabetic mice's blood sugar levels after they were exposed to the lights for about an hour a day across two weeks.

Although the study has shown positive results, the researchers say more work needs to be done before the HydrogeLED device would be suitable for human use. This is because it only works when the mice are within the electromagnetic field, so the device would not work when people left their homes stepping outside of the field.

The researchers said they were inspired by the "smart home" concept, where lighting, electronic devices and heating can all be controlled remotely and wanted to find a similar model to help people control their diabetes more easily.

They said the findings could "pave the way for a new era of personalized, digitalized, and globalized precision medicine. By combining electronic device–generated digital signals with optogenetically engineered cells, this study provides a step toward translating cell-based therapies into the clinic."

Senior author Haifeng Ye says his goal is a "fully automatic blood glucose monitor and diabetes therapy system" that could continuously monitor diabetes all day long and share the data using smartphones.

The findings have been published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.
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