A new type of treatment for people with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes dubbed the ‘sugar sponge’ has been unveiled by researchers.
The treatment moderates blood sugar levels in a novel way, ‘controlling sugar levels with sugar’.
The ‘sponge’ is made up of sugar-breathing glycopolymersomes which are administered into the body. It works by mimicking cell structures, essentially storing glucose and releasing it when needed.
It is then coated in a material called lecti, which binds and stores the sugar when the concentration is too high in the blood. The sponge is therefore able to ‘breathe in’ sugar when blood sugar levels are high and ‘breathe out’ the stored sugar when sugar levels go too low.
The researchers, led by Jianzhong Du of Tongji University in Shanghai, tested the sponge in mice with type 1 diabetes and within two days saw improvements in the animals.
“In vivo, this sugar sponge showed an excellent antidiabetic effect for type 1 diabetic mice within [two] days upon one dose, which is much longer than traditional long-acting insulin,” said the researchers.
The study team also noted “a remarkable size change of the sugar sponge due to the swelling/shrinkage at high/low glucose levels”.
This concept could prompt further research and treatment options in a bid to find new ways of controlling diabetes without the use of painful injections or oral medication.
While the researchers say it could control diabetes without the need for any medication, they will need to show that the sponge is able to do this long term. Questions currently remain as to how the sponge would be able to treat type 1 diabetes without the need for any insulin at all.
The findings have been published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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