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Diabetes control using a smartphone, human studies needed

Now, a smartphone application that can trigger and regulate the release of insulin from genetically engineered human cells. The technology could become a more effective way of managing blood sugar levels than insulin injections.

health Updated: Apr 28, 2017 19:20 IST
Researchers used a glucosemeter linked to a smartphone app to trigger the production of insulin in implanted cells in mice to maintain stable blood sugar levels
Researchers used a glucosemeter linked to a smartphone app to trigger the production of insulin in implanted cells in mice to maintain stable blood sugar levels (SHUTTERSTOCK)

A team of researchers from China and Switzerland has developed a smartphone application that can trigger and regulate the release of insulin from genetically engineered human cells. The technology could become a more effective way of managing blood sugar levels than insulin injections.

But, the current experiment was done in mice and is yet to be tested in humans. Better ways of managing diabetes are keenly sought after given that over 400 million people world over are afflicted by the disorder. The World Health Organisation described diabetes as an “emerging epidemic crisis.”

India is often termed the diabetes capital of the world with about 62 million people suffering the disease in 2014, a number that has increased dramatically from 11.9 million in 1980.

Causes of the disease are both genetic as well as related to lifestyle like diet and physical activity. There is no cure for diabetes but it is possible to manage its effects, that can lead to fatal complications. Research has suggested that Indians are genetically predisposed to a kind of insulin resistance that causes Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a condition when insulin, a hormone secreted by the beta cells in the pancreas, is not used efficiently by the body. The cells in our body derive energy from glucose, a form of sugar present in food. We do not eat constantly to ensure a continuous supply of energy; instead, when we eat, the glucose gets stored in our body. Insulin is responsible for signalling to the body that excess sugar in the bloodstream needs to be stashed away for future use.

Uncontrolled diabetes affects major organs and can cause heart attacks, kidney failures and impair vision.

The new technology allows the monitoring of blood sugar levels remotely using a Bluetooth-enabled blood glucosemeter. The meter is linked to the smartphone app that sends triggers for the production of insulin to implanted cells so that stable blood sugar levels are maintained.

The study was published in Science Translational Medicine this week.