UK scientists have begun building a “smart” insulin capsule that could deliver the hormone automatically to people with diabetes.
The University of Birmingham’s exciting new project could eventually free people with type 1 diabetes from injecting themselves every day with insulin.
These smart capsules would rest in the body and release insulin when blood glucose levels are too high.
Inside the capsules are molecules which bind to glucose, and when glucose levels are high the capsule will then melt away, releasing the insulin.
Lead author Dr John Fossey, a senior lecturer in the school of chemistry at Birmingham, says that making the lives of patients better is his team’s priority.
“We’re trying to create a system which will deliver insulin in response to glucose levels, releasing more if blood sugar is high.
“We can now recognise glucose in the body and my proposal is to take the same chemistry, take these molecules and build a container for insulin which will break open when it comes across glucose and deliver its cargo.
“If a patient could be injected with these containers, say once a week, they would slowly degrade in the presence of glucose to keep blood sugar at a constant level.”
The project is being funded by leading diabetes charity JDRF, which believes the Birmingham scientists could develop a “life-changing treatment”.
“This early stage of research could lay the foundations for a glucose responsive insulin that would be injected once a day, or even a week, and respond to glucose levels just like a healthy pancreas,” said Sarah Johnso, Director of Mission at JDRF.
“This would be a life-changing treatment for all those living with type 1 diabetes.”
Fossey and colleagues hope the capsule will be developed for animal trials within five years, but human testing is not expected until these tests have concluded.

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