Modified Insulin System Reduces Blood Glucose Levels in Type 1 Diabetes Mouse Models

Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Thursday, May 11th, 2017
Scientists have developed a novel technique that uses modified insulin and red blood cells to create a glucose-responsive insulin delivery system.
To modify insulin, the investigators chemically bonded it to glucosamine. This allowed the glucosamine to bind to glucose transporters on the surface of red blood cells, successfully attaching the insulin to the cell. This produces a red blood cell armored with insulin molecules.
In a study published in Advanced Materials, the investigators used mouse models of type 1 diabetes to examine the novel technique.
Mice receiving insulin-loaded blood cells were compared with a group that received a saline solution, a group that only received modified insulin, and a group that received a mixture of unmodified insulin and red blood cells.
The results of the study showed that diabetic mice that received the insulin-loaded blood cells experienced a significant reduction in blood glucose levels for more than 2 days. Although the other groups experienced an initial drop in blood glucose levels, within 12 hours they returned to their original high levels.
While testing the combinations in healthy mouse models, the results showed that the modified insulin and blood cell system reduced the risk of hypoglycemia compared with other drug combinations.
The investigators also tested modified insulin and nanoparticles coated with red blood cell membranes in mouse models of type 1 diabetes. The findings produced comparable results to those in mice that received modified insulin and red blood cells.
“This is a positive result, because it bodes well for developing a standardized means of delivering this glucose regulation system,” said co-corresponding author Zhen Gu.
Before the technique can be tested in clinical trials, the investigators plan to further evaluate the long-term biocompatibility of the modified insulin system.
“We are also exploring the use of painless microneedles to deliver this system, rather than relying on the conventional injections which were used in this study,” Gu said. “The possibility of using a different drug delivery system makes it difficult to assess cost, but we’re optimistic that the cost of the potential formulation would be comparable to existing treatments.”

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