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'Nano' Medicine Might Someday Free Diabetics From Daily Needles
Date:5/28/2013

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 28 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have developed a network of so-called "nanoparticles" that theoretically could be injected into the body and release insulin to counteract rising blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

Tested so far in mice, the nano-network was able to maintain normal glucose levels for more than a week with a single injection. Currently, patients have to inject themselves with insulin several times a day to control their blood sugar levels.

"The main aim was to mimic the activity of the pancreas. In our system, when glucose levels go up, the nanoparticles degrade to release insulin," said study author Zhen Gu, from the joint department of biomedical engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University. Gu, along with Robert Langer and Daniel Anderson, developed this technology when Gu was working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Although exciting, the research is very preliminary, one expert said.

"From a patient perspective, this could be incredible. It would reduce the burden of diabetes," said Sanjoy Dutta, senior director of treatment therapies at JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). "But there are still lots of questions to be answered. This was a first-pass study."

This treatment would likely be most useful for people with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition in which the pancreas no longer creates insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to properly metabolize the carbohydrates in food. Because their bodies no longer produce insulin, people with type 1 diabetes must take multiple daily injections of insulin to replace the missing insulin so blood sugar levels stay steady.

Dutta said this treatment could also be helpful for people with type 2 diabetes who need to take insulin injections. People with type 2 diabetes stil
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