Insulin injections are no fun for diabetics and they have to be taken as needed by the body, not by the patient’s pesonal schedule. This means if you have diabetes, you can’t just pre-inject yourself and go worry-free throughout the day. A nanotechnology developed at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill may end all that thanks to a self-assembling network that can release insulin whenever the patient wants.
The system consists of poly(lactic-co-glycolic) acid (PLGA) nanoparticles filled with insulin and coated with either negatively or positively charged substances. These stick to each other when mixed, so when injected into the body the solution remains together and when you want some insulin released, you simply hold an ultrasound transducer to the injection site and shake up the substance to release the insulin.
From NC State:
The researchers believe the technique works because the ultrasound waves excite microscopic gas bubbles in the tissue, temporarily disrupting nano-network in the subcutaneous layer of the skin. That disruption pushes the nanoparticles apart, relaxing the electrostatic force being exerted on the insulin in the reservoir. This allows the insulin to begin entering the bloodstream – a process hastened by the effect of the ultrasound waves pushing on the insulin.
“We know this technique works, and we think this is how it works, but we are still trying to determine the precise details,” says Dr. Yun Jing, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at NC State and co-corresponding author of the paper.
When the ultrasound is removed, the electrostatic force reasserts itself and pulls the nanoparticles in the nano-network back together. The nanoparticles then diffuse more insulin, refilling the reservoir.