Smart Insulin is a new kind of insulin that stays in the bloodstream. When the body needs to lower blood sugar, the Smart Insulin turns on and does that; when the body doesn’t need to lower blood sugar, the Smart Insulin turns itself off but remains ready and waiting in the circulatory system.
Regular insulin is a protein that is manufactured by the pancreas in response to increases in blood sugar. Normal insulin is always active- it immediately acts to lower blood sugar. It is then rapidly removed from the bloodstream by the liver. Normally, an insulin molecule only exists for around 5 minutes before it is destroyed.
Type I Diabetes
In type I diabetes, the pancreas becomes unable to produce insulin. Individuals with type I diabetes have to inject themselves with insulin regularly in order to survive. The process of testing the blood for sugar levels throughout the day and injecting insulin as needed is a burdensome daily routine for these individuals.
Not as Good
Manually checking blood sugar and injecting insulin does not work as smoothly as the natural process does. As a consequence, individuals with type I diabetes often spend time with their blood sugar elevated to levels higher than desirable. Over time, elevated blood sugar causes damage to the eyes, kidneys and heart. Nerves and blood vessels in the feet and hands can be damaged.
Individuals with type I diabetes try their best to keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range. Despite their best efforts, many do suffer from associated health problems as they get older. The feet in particular are a problem area for diabetics. Special diabetic socks for men and women that help improve circulation to the feet can make life easier for people with diabetes.
Insulin pumps are intended to continuously supply the body with insulin, mimicking the action of a healthy pancreas. They are usually worn around the waist on a belt, with a catheter that is surgically inserted into the body. They improve the ability to control blood sugar levels, but they still require that the person test the blood regularly and direct the pump to release boluses of insulin when the blood sugar starts to rise, a burdensome daily task.
When it becomes available, Smart Insulin will revolutionize management of type I diabetes. The need to constantly test the blood for sugar levels will go away because the Smart Insulin will do that automatically. Because the Smart Insulin will immediately detect and respond to elevated blood sugar, the diabetic will never spend time with blood sugar at toxic levels and therefore won’t suffer any damage to the feet, heart, eyes or kidneys. The type I diabetic will probably have to inject Smart Insulin once a day and then move on with life.
The engineered Smart Insulin has a modification that allows it to evade the liver’s insulin destruction process. It also has a glucose-sensor bound to it. When glucose (blood sugar) binds to the sensor, it releases the active insulin. When blood sugars drop, the glucose-sensing molecule binds to the insulin and stops it from working. Smart Insulin has been shown to work in mice and is currently in early human trials.