Diabetes Australia has boosted funding for University of
Queensland research into a matchstick-sized nano-implant that could
remove the need for daily insulin injections.
Australian Institute for
Bioengineering and Nanotechnology researcher Dr Chun Xu
(pictured) said the system would be safer to use than injections as
blood-glucose levels would be regulated at optimal levels,
eliminating the risk of hypoglycaemia, or blood glucose lows.
"Many people with diabetes need to inject insulin multiple times
a day, which can be painful or uncomfortable, and risks creating
hypoglycaemia by injecting too much insulin. Hypoglycaemia can lead
to comas or even worse complications," Dr Xu said.
"The matchstick sized nano-implant could be implanted under the
skin and control the blood glucose level for months with just one
injection. It would automatically release insulin in response to
diabetic glucose levels.
"In the future, we would also like to develop an
inter-changeable cartridge system which people could
Diabetes Australia's 2016 "
State of the Nation" report found that more than 380,000
Australians with type 1 and 2 diabetes need daily insulin
injections, or use insulin pump therapy.
Dr Xu said people with diabetes risk further complications from
current treatments, necessitating the need for newer approaches to
"Managing diabetes can be time consuming, and there is a
constant threat to health, especially in type 1 diabetes," he
"It is very easy to miss an insulin injection, which can result
in hyperglycaemia and having blood-glucose levels which are too
"This leads some people to use closed-loop insulin pumps to
electronically manage insulin levels. However, these can be
uncomfortable to wear, and are prone to infection because they are
connected directly into the body."
Diabetes Queensland CEO Michelle Trute said she was aware of the
many pressures on members' hip pockets, which made selection of the
most promising projects critical.
"The likelihood that daily insulin injections could be made
unnecessary by this research has the potential to change our
members' lives," Ms Trute said. "It would be the start of a new
dawn in the treatment of diabetes."
Project leader Professor Chengzhong
(Michael) Yu said the nano-implant would contain nanoparticles
loaded with insulin, released when a novel chemical biosensor is
"The outside of the nanoparticle is coated with enzymes and
polymer that act as a barrier to contain the insulin under normal
conditions. The barrier opens to release insulin only when the
blood glucose level is higher than normal, and then closes once
glucose levels return to safe levels," Professor Yu said.
"Chun's novel design can precisely control the glucose
concentration that opens this gate, which is difficult to achieve
using conventional methods."
The funding will enable the research team to study the
effectiveness of the system in a mouse model, ahead of human safety
trials. The study will be performed in collaboration with
endocrinology expert Professor Chen
Chen from UQ's School of
Diabetes Queensland contributes to the Diabetes Australia
Research Trust thanks to the generosity of members and donors.