The conventional use of glucagon has been reconsidered in a new investigation that has explored using it as a preventative, rather than an emergency, measure.

Currently, glucagon injections are used to control rising blood sugar levels for a sufficient amount of time before medical care is available.

Chemical and biomolecular engineer, Professor Matthew Webber, believes that it could be more beneficial to dispense glucagon as a preventative measure instead of in emergency situations.

His team of scientists produced hydrogels that stay together when close to a glucose, but gradually weaken when levels decrease, freeing glucagon into the body and increasing glucose levels.

Professor Webber said: “In the field of glucose-responsive materials, the focus has typically been on managing insulin delivery to control spikes in blood sugar.

“There are two elements to blood glucose control. You don’t want your blood sugar to be too high and you don’t want it to be too low.

“We’ve essentially engineered a control cycle using a hydrogel that breaks down when glucose levels drop to release glucagon as needed.”

Critical hypoglycemic attacks are particularly common in children with type 1 diabetes, leaving parents feeling anxious about it occurring during the night.

Rapid declines in blood sugars are not visible during the night, therefore putting children with the condition at risk of dying or entering a coma.

“A parent can check their child’s glucose levels right before they go to bed and everything looks fine, then around 2am their blood sugar is dangerously low and near comatose level,” said Professor Webber.

According to the researchers, the gels should be taken every evening before bed to receive the best protection. The team has stressed that the research is in very early stages.

Professor Webber added: “If a hypoglycemic episode arose later on, three or five hours later while the child is sleeping, then the technology would be there ready to deploy the therapeutic, correct the glucose imbalance and prevent a severe episode.”

The results from this investigation can now be accessed in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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