UCLA Researchers Develop Coin-Sized Smart Insulin Patch

UCLA bioengineers and their colleagues have developed a smart insulin-delivery patch that could one day monitor and manage glucose levels in people with diabetes and deliver necessary insulin dosage. The adhesive patch, about the size of a quarter, is simple to manufacture and intended to work for 24 hours before needing to be replaced.

A study describing the research in which the patch was tested on mice and pigs was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

“Our main goal is to enhance health and improve the quality of life for people who have diabetes,” said study leader Zhen Gu, a professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. “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’s mimicking the regulatory function of the pancreas, but in a way that’s easy to use.”

The smart patch monitors blood sugar (or glucose). It has doses of insulin pre-loaded in very tiny microneedles, less than one millimeter in length, that deliver the medicine quickly when the blood sugar levels reach a certain threshold. When blood sugar returns to normal, its insulin delivery also slows down. The researchers said the advantage is that it can help prevent insulin overdoses, which can lead to hypoglycemia, seizures, coma or even death.

“It has always been a dream to achieve insulin-delivery in a smart and convenient manner,” said study co-author Dr. John Buse, director of the Diabetes Center and the Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. “This smart insulin patch, if proven safe and effective in human trials, would revolutionize the patient experience of diabetes-care.”

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