Bio-prosthesis regulates acid build-up in diabetes patients
Researchers at the Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule in Basel have developed an implant that monitors acid build-up in in diabetes type 1 patients and produces insulin when there is a risk of acidosis. The prototype has been presented in "Molecular Cell".
People with type 1 diabetes are particularly at risk of high acid levels. If the lack of insulin is not noticed or treated in time, people with type 1 diabetes can die from ketoacidosis. A team of ETH bioengineers have now developed a new implantable molecular device composed of two modules: a sensor that constantly measures blood pH and a gene feedback mechanism that produces the necessary amount of insulin. They constructed both modules from biological components, such as various genes and proteins, and incorporated them into cultivated renal cells. They then embedded these customised cells in capsules which can be used as implants in the body.
The heart of the implantable molecular device is the pH sensor, which measures the blood's precise acidity and reacts sensitively to minor deviations from the ideal pH value. If the pH values falls below the level specific for type 1 diabetes, the sensor transmits a signal to trigger the production of insulin. As a result, the pH value rises again until the ideal value is reached.
The researchers have already tested their invention on mice with type 1 diabetes and related acidosis. Mice, in which the capsules had been implanted, produced the amount of insulin appropriate to their individual acid measurements. The hormone level in the blood was comparable to that of healthy mice. The implant also compensated for larger deviations in blood sugar.
"Applications for humans are conceivable based on this prototype, but they are yet to be developed," said lead researcher Martin Fussenegger. "We wanted to create a prototype first to see whether molecular prostheses could even be used for such fine adjustments to metabolic processes."
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