'Smart capsules' spell end of daily jabs for diabetics
A world in which Type 1 diabetics no longer need to inject themselves every day may be just a few years away after British scientists set about creating a system that delivers insulin automatically.
Currently, people with Type 1 diabetes must undergo prick tests several times a day to monitor their blood sugar, and inject themselves with insulin when it gets too high.
But now scientists at the University of Birmingham are developing smart capsules that would travel through the body and release insulin when they find high levels of blood sugar.
The team has already discovered molecules that bind to glucose, from which they plan to build a shell which can contain insulin but melts away in the presence of sugar, releasing its payload.
"We want to make the lives of patients better," said Dr John Fossey, a senior lecturer in the school of chemistry at Birmingham, who is leading the project.
"Imagine if patients could go through a week without having to worry about their blood sugar levels, or injecting themselves.
"I've talked to the parents of kids with Type 1 diabetes and they say, 'if only my children could do things, like go to sleepovers, their lives would be so much better'. Most parents aren't confident enough to entrust injections to other adults."
The Birmingham scientists said they are confident that the capsule will be ready for animal trials within five years, and humans soon afterwards.
"This could be a step change in the management of Type 1 diabetes," said Dr Fossey.
"It will give people the freedom to live their lives without constantly worrying about monitoring their condition."
In January, researchers at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced they had successfully switched off Type 1 diabetes for several months in mice - which could equate to years if replicated in humans.
Their treatment involves creating millions of insulin-producing cells in the lab and injecting them into the body.
The University of North Carolina has also developed a "smart patch" which monitors glucose levels and delivers insulin automatically. (© Daily Telegraph London)