Painless Skin Patch Regulates Type 2 Diabetes Glucose Levels

A patch containing painless micro-needles managed glucose levels in mice automatically by responding to their blood chemistry.

The innovative patch was tested by researchers at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).

“This experimental approach could be a way to take advantage of the fact that persons with type 2 diabetes can still produce some insulin,” said Richard Leapman, Ph.D., NIBIB scientific director. “A weekly microneedle patch application would also be less complicated and painful than routines that require frequent blood testing.”

The patch is made with a base material called alginate, a gummy, pliable substance extracted from brown algae. The alginate is combined with therapeutic agents, then poured into a micro-needle form to create a patch. It’s designed for type 2 diabetes management and remains effective for several days.

The patch’s therapeutic agents - exendin-4 and glucose oxidase - react with blood chemistry to stimulate the body’s insulin production as needed, and to restrict insulin production once normal glucose levels are reached.

“That's why we call it responsive, or smart, release,” said Xiaoyuan (Shawn) Chen, senior investigator in the Laboratory of Molecular Imaging and Nanomedicine. “Most current approaches involve constant release. Our approach creates a wave of fast release when needed and then slows or even stops the release when the glucose level is stable.”

In the animal study, a half-inch square patch held enough drug to regulate blood glucose in mice for seven days. Before human trials can be done, the investigators will first treat larger animals with patches holding proportionately more therapeutic agent, and then alter the needles to suit human skin. “Also, the patch needs to be compatible with daily life, for instance allowing for showering or sweating,” says Chen.

Other micro-needle developers have completed pilot human trials with patches that deliver insulin, potentially helping people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Chen and colleagues hope to apply lessons learned by the other researchers to their drug delivery system.

Source: NIBIB
Photo credit: NIBIB

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