Just imagine: Instead of repeated blood tests and injections to keep blood sugar and diabetes in check every day, a single dose of “smart” insulin could circulate in the body and turn on whenever needed.
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and type 2. With type 1, which accounts for an estimated 10 percent of diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys the very cells that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, happens when the body either cannot make enough insulin or the body’s cells simply don’t react to it the way it normally should.
While people with type 2 diabetes may be able to control their symptoms by eating more healthily, exercising regularly and monitoring their blood sugar, those with type 1 diabetes – who either cannot produce or use their body’s insulin – rely heavily on insulin injections to stay healthy.
It’s crucial, in fact. Without insulin, your blood sugar can become dangerously high, which can have a serious and cumulative impact on long-term health. Nevertheless, injecting insulin can also make blood sugar levels drop far too low. That’s why people with type 1 diabetes have to regularly check their blood glucose levels. It’s no easy task.
Because of this, diabetes researchers have been looking high and low for ways to make blood sugar control far easier, not to mention more convenient for patients. That’s where smart insulin comes into play. There are a few different types already in the works, but they’re all designed to automatically activate whenever blood sugar levels get too high and then switch off again whenever they return to normal.
Just like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been testing their own smart insulin. It’s a chemically modified version of regular, long-acting insulin, with an extra set of molecules attached on its end. This binds it to proteins that gradually circulate throughout the bloodstream. While it’s attached to these proteins, the smart insulin is in what’s called a “switched off” mode.
In other words, whenever blood sugar rises, the smart insulin switches on while glucose locks into the smart insulin before instructing it to get to work.
It’s sophisticated science, and an important advancement when it comes to insulin therapy. Without question, smart insulin can make life easier and safer for people with diabetes. It can help people with type 1 diabetes, especially, to achieve near-perfect glucose control – that’s all from a single injection each day or every week. And that’s pretty exciting.
Of course, more research and clinical trials will be needed in order to find out if smart insulin can be used safely and effectively by all diabetics. Until then, if you are someone living with type 1 or 2 diabetes, it’s important that you remember to manage your blood sugar levels as carefully as possible.
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