University of Utah Scientists Develop ‘Smart’ Insulin That Automatically Adjusts Blood Sugar

If you have Type 1 diabetes then you know all about the hassle of monitoring your blood sugar levels.

That’s right, it can be a time-eater and even deadly if a dose is misjudged. 

However, good news has just arrived. You see, scientists at the University of Utah Health Sciences Centre have invented what’s called ‘smart’ insulin that instantly corrects blood sugar.

Trevor Smith/Utah/2015: Scientists at the University of Utah Health Sciences Centre have invented what’s called ‘smart’ insulin that instantly corrects blood sugar.Trevor Smith/Utah/2015: Scientists at the University of Utah Health Sciences Centre have invented what’s called ‘smart’ insulin that instantly corrects blood sugar.

The team began their research only four years ago and they have just developed a new compound, known as Ins-PBA-F. The team discovered that the new compound works in mice, and it automatically self-activates when blood sugar levels rise.

This new breakthrough could lessen the burden Type 1 diabetes sufferers have as they constantly have to monitor their blood sugar levels and judge themselves how much insulin they need. 

The American Diabetes Association reports that miscalculating insulin doses can lead to a plethora of health issues including blindness, heart disease, and could, in the worst case scenario, result in coma, or even death.

The American Diabetes Association also reports that diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Currently 29.1 million Americans suffer from diabetes, and approximately 1.25 million American children have Type 1 Diabetes.

According to the University of Utah’s website, “To mitigate the dangers inherent to insulin dosing, a University of Utah biochemist and fellow scientists have created Ins-PBA-F, a long-lasting ‘smart’ insulin that self-activates when blood sugar soars. Tests on mouse models for Type 1 diabetes show that one injection works for a minimum of 14 hours, during which time it can repeatedly and automatically lower blood sugar levels after mice are given amounts of sugar comparable to what they would consume at mealtime.”

"This is an important advance in insulin therapy," says Danny Chou, a lead researcher at the University of Utah. “Our insulin derivative appears to control blood sugar better than anything that is available to diabetes patients right now.”

Chou will be studying the long-term efficacy of Ins-PBA-F. The insulin derivative could reach the first phase of human clinical trials it two to five years.

“At present, there is no clinically approved glucose-responsive modified insulin,” says Matthew Webber, a senior researcher who has also been working on this discovery since 2011. “The development of such an approach could contribute to greater therapeutic autonomy for diabetic patients.”

Chou anticipates that Ins-PBA-F will be safe enough for diabetics to use regularly “because it is a chemically modified version of a naturally occurring hormone.”

“We hope that ‘smart’ insulin could reduce the burden for people with diabetes by decreasing the frequency of insulin injections and help them better manage blood glucose profiles to prevent short and long-term complications,” says Chou.

The team’s discovery has just been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.