Smart Insulin Patch May Help Monitor, Manage Glucose Levels In Diabetes Patients


Researchers have developed a coin-sized insulin-delivery patch, an advance that may help people with diabetes monitor and manage their blood glucose levels, and deliver the necessary medical dose of insulin they need.

According to the study, published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, the adhesive patch is about the size of a small coin, is simple to manufacture, and intended for once-a-day use.


The researchers, including those from the University of North Carolina (UNC) in the US, said the hormone insulin is naturally produced in the pancreas, and helps the body regulate glucose—the main energy-providing chemical from food.


In type 1 diabetes, a person’s body does not naturally produce insulin, while in type 2 diabetes it does not efficiently use the insulin from pancreas, and together both types affect more than 400 million people worldwide, they said.


“Our main goal is to enhance health and improve the quality of life for people who have diabetes,” said Zhen Gu, study co-author and a former professor at UNC.

“This smart patch takes away the need to constantly check one’s blood sugar and then inject insulin if and when it’s needed. It mimics the regulatory function of the pancreas but in a way that’s easy to use,” Gu said.


According to the researchers, the patch monitors blood sugar, or glucose, and has doses of insulin pre-loaded in very tiny microneedles, less than one-millimetre in length that deliver medicine quickly when the blood sugar levels reach a certain threshold.


When blood sugar returns to normal, they said, the patch’s insulin delivery also slows down—an advantage since this may help prevent overdosing of insulin, which can lead to low glucose levels, seizures, coma, or even death.


“This smart insulin patch, if proven safe and effective in human trials, would revolutionise the patient experience of diabetes care,” said study co-author John Buse from UNC.


The microneedles used in the patch are made with a glucose-sensing polymer which is encapsulated with insulin, the study noted.




Once applied on the skin, it said, these needles penetrate under the skin, and can sense blood sugar levels.


Whenever glucose levels go up, the polymer is triggered to release the insulin, according to the researchers.


A quarter-sized patch, used in the study, significantly controlled glucose levels in pigs with type 1 diabetes for about 20 hours, they said.


“I am glad the team could bring this smart insulin patch one more step close to reality, and we look forward to hopefully seeing it move forward to someday help people with diabetes,” said Robert Langer, one of the study’s co-authors from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US.