A new form of synthetic insulin currently undergoing trials could revolutionize diabetes management and treatment.
A group of researchers led by Dr. Danny Chou, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Utah, has developed a form of insulin currently known as “Ins-PBA-F.” This “smart” insulin is capable of activating itself in response to high blood sugar levels in type 1 diabetes patients.
“Ins-PBA-F fits the true definition of ‘smart’ insulin, where the insulin itself is glucose responsive,” said Dr. Chou in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “It is the first in its class.”
The insulin was shown by a study published in the journal to be effective when tested on mice infected with a form of type 1 diabetes, lasting approximately 14 hours before losing effectiveness. In addition, researchers claim that the speed and type of reactions created by Ins-PBA-F in the diabetic mice mimicked those of the natural insulin of healthy, non-diabetic mice.
Ins-PBA-F contains a tail composed of molecules of phenylboronic acid, or PBA. Under normal circumstances, this tail bonds with proteins in the bloodstream, rendering the insulin inactive. When blood sugar rises beyond acceptable levels, PBA instead bonds with sugars, activating the insulin. After the patient’s blood sugar is restored to normal levels, PBA resumes bonding with protein, returning the insulin to its dormant state.
Currently, a diabetes patient must monitor his or her blood sugar at regular intervals, as well as accurately measure the amount of insulin they must inject in order to combat higher-than-normal blood sugar. Failure to manage one’s blood sugar can lead to complications such as heart disease.
Researchers are currently working on a form of Ins-PBA-F therapy that will be compatible with human patients. The team plans to begin clinical trials of Ins-PBA-F within two to five years.
“This is an important advance in insulin therapy,” said Dr. Chou.