Diabetes and technology tell us the newest medicine will be microchips and nanoparticles. Know what they are and how they work so you can be ready when they are available.
In research labs worldwide, scientists are using nanoparticles and microchips to fight both type 1 and 2 diabetes.
Stem cell research is showing promise, but many have decided to try more high tech methods.
Technology may use bioengineering and nanotechnology to find better ways to deliver medications. Some hope to find a cure for diabetes.
The idea of using microchips is exciting. Trials of implanting a tiny chip under the skin and releasing medications at specific times has led to some interesting results.
Before this idea will work, doctors need to prove the implant is safe and works for a long time. Their goal is to have an implant deliver 365 doses, enough for a year.
At this time they plan to use this for medications that are injected every day, not for pills or liquids.
Microchips cannot be used to replace insulin injections because right now the chips cannot hold more than tiny doses in uniform amounts.
But anything that needs to be given by injection in small doses could be placed in microchips and implanted under your skin.
That is one view of the future for diabetes and technology. It could mean the end of injecting with needles.
An implanted microchip was tested on women with a medication for severe osteoporosis.
This drug was chosen for the trial because it requires a daily injection of a small regular dose of a medication called Forteo.
Because of the pain and inconvenience of injecting it every single day for two years, only one out of five women completed the whole course of treatment.
The osteoporosis drug fit the trial needs perfectly. If the implant improved compliance, it would be worth the cost to doctors and patients.
Microchips were fitted with 20 wells, the freeze-dried medicine was put in the wells, and the titanium chip was covered with a special layer of gold nanoparticles thousands of times smaller than a human cell.
The gold would dissolve over one well as soon as it received a radio signal.
These microchips were implanted under the abdominal skin of eight women, and each was attached to a receiver the size of a pacemaker that was also implanted.
The medicine was released by a radio
command from a computer at the lab or by a cell phone.
Almost all of the medicine was released at the right time, and all of the women liked this new way of taking their medication.
The clinical trial worked for seven of the eight women. Most of them said they forgot the microchip was even there.
This meant the trial was a success. Now Forteo, the company that makes the osteoporosis drug, is working on an implant that will hold enough doses for a full year.
But it will be a long time before the microchip shows up as a prescription drug. So the promise that diabetes and technology could deliver medications with nanoparticles is still a long way off.
How would you like a nanotech vaccine? Diabetes and technology might make it happen.
To test an idea, some nanoparticles, which are thousands of times smaller than a human cell, were given a protein coat that would act to suppress the immune response of T-cells.
In a type 1 diabetic, T-cells destroy the beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin. T-cells are supposed to fight invading bacteria, but in type 1 diabetes they turn on their own host.
For a type 1 diabetic child this happens fast, but in adult onset type 1 the loss is gradual.
The nanoparticles created for the diabetes
and technology labs were designed to target the rogue T-cells in the pancreas and stop the autoimmune response in some diabetic mice.
It worked beautifully without suppressing the immune response anywhere else in the mice.
Scientists watched the vaccine cure the mice by stopping the destruction of beta cells, reversing their type 1 diabetes.
This was an exciting result because it is the first time that suppressing the immune response in one organ did not affect the immune response of the entire body.
Not only diabetes but a whole host of autoimmune disorders could be cured by this kind of targeted vaccine. It makes the future of diabetes and technology look bright.
Nanoparticles are showing up in a lot of diabetic journals, not because of the vaccine but for other reasons.
Some are experimenting with nano-ink tattoos and contact lenses that detect low and high blood sugar.
This kind of diabetes and technology research is not as exciting, but it could make life with diabetes simpler.
The bacteria E. coli is easy to grow in the lab. Diabetes and technology scientists use bacteria that has been altered to make it harmless to us.
They use bioengineered bacteria to produce a lot of things. One is GLP-1.
This is the hormone that triggers production of insulin. It also helps alpha and beta cells in the pancreas become more sensitive. So it reverses insulin resistance.
The bioengineered E. coli were fed to diabetic mice, and in 80 days the mice had normal glucose levels in their blood.
The company researching this bacteria is planning to add it to yogurt in the hope of replacing insulin shots.
If a bacteria can deliver drugs by food instead of pills and needles, it will revolutionize diabetic treatment.
The altered E. coli bacteria still needs to be tested on humans. No one knows how well it will work in us yet.
So it will be several years before we see diabetic yogurt, but this is a form of diabetes and technology that sounds delicious.
A company called Kumetrix is developing a silicon microneedle for daily shots. They say the needle is as fine as a human hair.
The tiny insulin needles we use now are almost painless, but the day is coming when we use needles we cannot feel at all.
This is an example of the changes we will see in the next few years. Why? Because the market is huge. Over 25.8 million children and adults have diabetes just in the U.S. There were nearly two million new diabetics over 19 back in 2010.
The potential financial gain for research companies fuels a race for diabetes and technology to find ways to help us. We will reap the benefits.
We will see new medication delivery systems, real 24-hour glucose monitors, and a cure for type 1 diabetes. It is going to be exciting.
A growing understanding of the origins of diabetes and technology at the microscopic level is aiding scientific discoveries the world over.
Add in adult stem cell research, and we have no idea what might happen. But type 2 diabetics need to remember something.
You do not have to wait for science. Lifestyle changes with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise hold out hope for you today. It is a great way to live no matter what happens with diabetes and technology.
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