A new smart insulin has been developed which could help people prevent hypoglycemia, researchers have said.
Currently known as i-insulin, the team from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) added an extra molecule to the hormone which they say can prevent low blood sugar levels.
The study’s principal investigator Zhen Gu, a professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, said: “Our new i-insulin works like a ‘smart’ key’. The insulin lets glucose get into the cell, but the added inhibitor molecule prevents too much from going in when blood sugar is normal. This keeps blood sugar at normal levels and reduces the risk of hypoglycemia.”
The medication has been tested in a mouse model of type 1 diabetes. A first injection of insulin was shown to be effective in keeping blood sugar levels within the normal range for up to 10 hours. A second injection of the insulin was given three hours afterwards which continued the protection from hypoglycemia.
The next step is to test the i-insulin on humans in a clinical trial. If the results show the treatment to be safe and effective, the treatment could radically change diabetes care.
The study’s co-lead author, postdoctoral researcher Jinqiang Wang, added: “This i-insulin can also rapidly respond to high glucose levels.
“For example, after a meal, when glucose levels climb, the insulin level in the bloodstream also quickly increases, which helps normalize the glucose level.”
Dr Gu concluded: “The new insulin has the potential to be optimized for response times and how long it could last in the body before another dose would be required.”
The findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.