Smart delivery systems for diabetes management

Smart delivery systems for diabetes management
Diabetes is a disease that has become one of the major health related issues among the young adults as well as the aged. World Health Organization’s statistics shows that in 2012, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths around the globe. This chronic disease occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce the required quantity of insulin or when the body is unable to utilise the produced insulin. Since insulin regulates blood sugar, the unregulated sugar levels, over time, can cause serious damages to the body. The occurrence of diabetes can significantly increase the chances of heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, retinopathy, etc.

Researchers in Nanotechnology are coming up with new and innovative methods to manage this disease. Regular checking of blood glucose levels is an essential part of the treatment plan. The traditional finger prick test cannot only be painful but also cannot be used to detect sudden spikes in blood sugar levels. In order to combat these problems, researchers are working towards the development of ‘smart drug delivery’ systems.

One of the earlier methods used to deal with diabetes was to create a miniature box with silicon wafers, containing healthy pancreatic beta cells within it. Since implantation of beta cells have been shown to produce an immune response, this box contained pores of 20 nm size. The specific pore size allowed small molecules, such as glucose and insulin to pass through but prevented the entry of larger molecules from the immune system. By preventing molecules, such as immunoglobulins, the need for immunosuppressants, which could put the patient under high risk of infection could be avoided. This box could be implanted under the patient’s skin.

Smart drug delivery systems are able to adjust the amount of drug delivered according to the need of the patient. In case of diabetes, these systems act as artificial replacement to the beta cells present in the pancreas. The blood is initially analysed for the glucose content and according to the need of the patient, the required quantity of drug is delivered.

One of the mechanisms developed for the smart delivery system is by using dextran nanoparticles. Spheres are made of dextran which contain insulin inside their shell. The spheres also contain enzymes to convert glucose to gluconic acid. The spheres are either coated with a positively charged or negatively charged coating. This prevents the particles from dispersing out into the body and keeps them together in the form of a network. When the spheres come in contact with the blood glucose of the patient, they are converted to gluconic acid. The environment local to these spheres become slightly more acidic. The acidity causes the spheres to disintegrate and release the insulin entrapped inside it. This system has been tested in mice with Type-I diabetes. It has been observed that, a single injection containing these spheres can cause the blood glucose to remain steady for ten days. The polysaccharide spheres are both biocompatible and biodegradable. Therefore, no undue toxicity effects are caused.

With the launch of smart delivery systems, the need for diabetes patients to self-monitor blood glucose levels and to self-inject insulin can be avoided. This will not only improve patients’ compliance but also improve their quality of life.
How to cite this article:
Jahnavi Jha. Smart delivery systems for diabetes management. BioLim O-Media. 10 July, 2017. 5(7).
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