Qld research boost to replace daily injections

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 self-administer."


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 treating diabetes.


"Managing diabetes can be time consuming, and there is a constant threat to health, especially in type 1 diabetes," he said.


"It is very easy to miss an insulin injection, which can result in hyperglycaemia and having blood-glucose levels which are too high.


"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 activated.


"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 Biomedical Sciences.


Diabetes Queensland contributes to the Diabetes Australia Research Trust thanks to the generosity of members and donors.

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