Skip to main content

Smart microneedle insulin patch could make it easier to treat diabetes

Close to 10% of the U.S. population, around 30.3 million people, have diabetes. A new treatment delivery system created by bioengineers at the University of North Carolina and the
University of California, Los Angeles could help make life easier for them — via a smart insulin patch that’s about the size of a quarter. All a patient would need to use it would be to slap on a new patch at the start of the day, after which it would monitor and manage glucose levels for the next 24 hours.

“It is smart and simple, which means it could help enhance the health and quality of life for people with diabetes,” Zhen Gu, the study leader and a professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, told Digital Trends. “It is a smart glucose-responsive insulin release device because it can respond to high blood sugar levels and release only the necessary insulin dosage, thus reducing the risk of hypoglycemia. This is a small and disposable device, so it is very simple and convenient to use; one can remove the patch any time to stop the administration of insulin.”

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The glucose-monitoring adhesive patch is covered in tiny microneedles, each one less than a millimeter in length. They are made from a glucose-sensing polymer and come pre-loaded with insulin. When the patch is applied, the microneedles penetrate the skin and start measuring blood sugar levels. If the glucose levels increase, the polymer triggers the release of insulin. At the point at which levels return to normal, the patch’s insulin delivery also slows down. While this approach still involves pricking the patient with a needle, these needles are much smaller than regular needles. As a result, the patch is less painful than an ordinary injection.

So far, the patch has been successful in studies involving pigs. The researchers were able to use it to successfully control the glucose levels in these animals, which had Type I diabetes, for around 20 hours. Next, the researchers are hoping to progress to further trials, with the goal of commercializing their technology.

“This patch has already been accepted by FDA’s emerging technology programs for clinical trial applications,” Gu said.

A paper describing the research was recently published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more