New 'Smart Sponge' Delivers Diabetes, Cancer Drugs

Thursday, 25 Jul 2013 03:16 PM

By Nick Tate

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Insulin and cancer drugs may one day be delivered not by a needle but by a tiny injectable sponge, new research suggests. Scientists at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  have developed a technique for diabetes treatment in which a sponge-like material surrounds an insulin core.

The sponge expands and contracts in response to blood sugar levels in people with diabetes to release insulin as needed. The technique could also be used for targeted drug delivery to cancer cells.
 
"We wanted to mimic the function of health [cells], which produce insulin and control its release in a healthy body," said Zhen Gu, M.D., who described the team’s research in a paper published in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano. "But what we've found also holds promise for smart drug delivery targeting cancer or other diseases."

Editor's Note:Knowing these 5 cancer-causing signs is crucial to remaining cancer-free for life
 
The researchers said the spherical, sponge-like device is made of chitosan, a material found in shrimp and crab shells. A reservoir inside the device can be filled with insulin and other drugs.
 
The sponge is approximately 250 micrometers in diameter — about the size of the period at the end of this sentence — and can be injected into a patient.
 
When a diabetic patient's blood sugar rises, the glucose triggers a reaction that causes the sponge's pores to allow the insulin to escape into the bloodstream. In Type 1 and advanced Type 2 diabetes, the body needs injections of insulin, a hormone that transports glucose —blood sugar — from the bloodstream into the body's cells.
 
"We can also adjust the size of the overall 'sponge' matrix as needed," Dr. Gu said. "And the chitosan itself can be absorbed by the body, so there are no long-term health effects."
In tests using diabetic mice, the researchers found the sponge was effective at reducing blood sugar for up to 48 hours.
 
"But we learned a lot from the promising 'sponge' research and will further optimize it. Meanwhile, we are already exploring applications to combat cancer," Dr. Gu said.

Editor's Note:Knowing these 5 cancer-causing signs is crucial to remaining cancer-free for life

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