Controlling Diabetes with a Skin Patch?


It seems like a fantastic idea. Especially as I type this with sore fingertips.

From MIT Technology Review:
Attempting to free people with diabetes from frequent finger-pricks and drug injections, researchers have created an electronic skin patch that senses excess glucose in sweat andautomatically administers drugs by heating up microneedles that penetrate the skin.
The prototype was developed by Dae-Hyeong Kim, assistant professor at Seoul National University and researchers at MC10, a flexible-electronics company in Lexington, Massachusetts.Two years ago the same group prototyped a patch aimed at Parkinson’s patients that diagnoses tremors and delivers drugs stored inside nanoparticles.

Other efforts to develop minimally invasive glucose monitoring have used ultrasound
and optical measurements to detect glucose levels. And a variety of skin
patches could deliver insulin or metformin, a popular drug used to
treat type 2 diabetes. But the new prototype incorporates both detection
and drug delivery in one device.

The patch, described in a paper in Nature Nanotechnology, is made of graphene studded with gold particles and contains sensors that detect humidity, glucose, pH, and temperature. The enzyme-based glucose sensor takes into account pH and temperature to improve the
accuracy of the glucose measurements taken from sweat.

If the patch senses high glucose levels, heaters trigger microneedles to dissolve a coating
and release the drug metformin just below the skin surface. “This is thefirst closed-loop epidermal system that has both monitoring and the noninvasive delivery of diabetes drugs directly to the subject,” says Roozbeh Ghaffari, cofounder of MC10.

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If this were releasing insulin, I’d be more impressed. Metformin does little to treat an already-existing high. Its true vocation is preventing them. Granted it has a mild effect on insulin sensitivity, but it’s hard to see this making a major difference in the case of a genuine spike.

But, that’s what trials are for. Time will tell. Although there is no information in the announcement about any trials, current or future.