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Latest Diabetes Research: A new device producing insulin to help type-1 diabetics

Written by Editorial Team |Published : August 12, 2014 4:31 PM IST


Type 1 diabetes or juvenile diabetes has insulin as the only golden standard treatment. Since it mainly affects younger adults and children, constant monitoring of insulin levels and timing the insulin doses becomes difficult. But soon type 1 diabetics could skip constant monitoring of insulin levels.

According to the new study that appeared online in the journal Molecular Cell Researchers, researchers have now developed an implantable molecular device that has the ability to monitor the build-up of acid levels in the body. This device is extremely useful for type-1 diabetics as it can produces insulin if increased acid levels or acidosis becomes a risk for the patient.

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The device is composed of two modules: a sensor that constantly measures blood pH (measure of acidity) and a gene feedback mechanism that produces the necessary amount of insulin. These modules were constructed by the researchers from biological components such as genes and proteins.

The researchers then incorporated these components into cultivated renal cells. They embedded millions of these customised cells in capsules which can be used as implants in the body. According to the researchers the heart of the device is its pH sensor, which measures the blood's precise acidity and reacts sensitively to minor deviations from the ideal pH value.

If the device detects a pH values below 7.35 (specific for diabetes), its sensor transmits a signal to trigger the production of insulin. The secreted insulin ensures that the normal cells in the body absorb glucose again and switch from fat to sugar as their energy source for metabolism, and the pH value rises again.

'We wanted to create a prototype to see whether molecular prostheses could even be used for such fine adjustments to metabolic processes,' said Martin Fussenegger from ETH Zurich in Switzerland.

The device has already been tested on mice with type-1 diabetes and related acidosis.

What is type 1 diabetes?

'Type 1 diabetes is a condition that is mainly seen in children (also called juvenile diabetes). It occurs due to self-destruction of insulin-producing cells of the pancreas called beta cells. This means, the body's immune system generates antibodies against the beta cells and destroys them. Insulin is a hormone that is needed for the conversion of starch and other foods into energy. As the body is unable to produce insulin, it struggles with increased glucose levels in the blood and urine. In type 2 diabetes, although insulin is produced by the body it cannot be utilised in a normal way. In simpler terms, you could say that getting type 1 diabetes is bad luck, whereas type 2 diabetes is just a result of faulty lifestyle,' says Dr Dr Pradeep Gadge, consultant diabetologist, Seven Hills Hospital, Mumbai.

Dr Gadge offers some tips for parents to manage the condition in their children

Children cannot handle themselves, therefore parents should be extra careful about them.

  • Type 1 diabetes is a sensitive disease, so parents should be cautious about hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) and hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) because the sugar levels can keep fluctuating drastically.
  • Regular follow up with the doctor is a must. With type 1 diabetes, the risk of eye and kidney complications is much greater, so be careful about the overall health of your child.
  • Specific diet medication is not required but a specified amount of carbohydrate should be included in their diet. Your doctor will guide you with carbohydrate counting and diet restrictions for your child.

Also read: Type 1 diabetes causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention

With inputs from IANS

Photo source: Getty images (Picture for representational purpose only)

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