May 23, 2019 | Updated: 11:35 AM EDT

Scientists Discover a Potential Treatment For Hypoglycemia

May 17, 2019 08:37 AM EDT

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Diabetes Glucose Test
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Imagine preventive care of people with hypoglycemia, Bioengineers from the University of California-Los Angeles have developed a new kind of insulin that could improve diabetes care by preventing hypoglycemia.

Evaluation of the treatment is currently being done for potential clinical trials. Results of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

The hormone insulin is produced naturally by the pancreas. It regulates glucose, which comes from the food that people eat and also serves as a source of energy.

"Diabetes occurs when a person's body does not naturally produce insulin (Type 1 diabetes), or does not efficiently use the insulin that is produced (Type 2). In either case, a regular dosage of insulin is prescribed to manage the disease, which affects more than 400 million people worldwide," according to Medical Xpress.

Diabetic people or those who need to monitor the level of their blood sugar do so through a continuous glucose monitoring system or a glucose meter. They calculate for the corresponding insulin dose accordingly. In order to have normal blood sugar levels, intake of carbohydrate must be regular. However, there is a large degree of human error that results with this process that might result in dangerous consequences.

Too low blood sugar can result in hypoglycemia due to insulin overdose. An overdose could lead to coma, seizures, or death.

The researchers developed i-insulin, smart insulin, that can prevent too low blood sugar levels.

Insulin allows glucose to flow from the bloodstream into the cells. A protein inside the cell is activated when insulin attaches to the surface of the cell. This moves the surrounding glucose from the blood into the cell.

"The research team added an additional molecule to insulin to create the new smart insulin. This added molecule, called a glucose transporter inhibitor, chemically blocks the glucose transporter molecule that has come to the surface. Its presence doesn't block all glucose from entering, nor does it permanently block the transporter molecules. Instead, it's part of a dynamic process that depends on how many inhibitor and glucose molecules are present," explained Medical Xpress.

"Our new i-insulin works like a 'smart' key," said the study's principal investigator Zhen Gu, a professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. "The insulin lets glucose get into the cell, but the added inhibitor molecule prevents too much from going in when blood sugar is normal. This keeps blood sugar at normal levels and reduces the risk of hypoglycemia."

"This i-insulin can also rapidly respond to high glucose levels," added Jinqiang Wang, the study's co-lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in Gu's research group. "For example, after a meal, when glucose levels climb, the insulin level in the bloodstream also quickly increases, which helps normalize the glucose level."

Smart insulin was tested on Type-1 diabetic mic. Glucose levels were controlled by the i-insulin within the normal range for up to 10 hours after the first injection. Hypoglycemia was prevented by applying a second injection three hours later.

"The next step is to further evaluate the long-term biocompatibility of the modified insulin system in an animal model before determining whether to move to clinical trials," said co-author Dr. John Buse, director of the Diabetes Care Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. The vision, if realized, would be one of the most exciting advances in diabetes care."

"The new insulin has the potential to be optimized for response times and how long it could last in the body before another dose would be required," Gu said. "And it could be delivered in other methods, such as a skin patch that automatically monitors blood sugar levels, or in pills."

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