Nanotechnology has advanced significantly in the past decade, and research is now being conducted to see if it could be used in the field of biomedicine. According to recent research, nanoscience could be applied to the monitoring of bodily functions as well as delivering drugs to organs in tiny capsules; this could be used to monitor blood sugar levels, or help the pancreases of type 1 diabetics to regain the ability to produce insulin.
The group of researchers from MIT and Carnegie Mellon University showed that glucose nanosensors could be incorporated in devices that could be implanted into the body, allowing patients to monitor their blood sugar levels in real-time. One material which is being considered for the nanosensors is glucose oxidase. These are “glucose‑binding proteins and glucose‑binding small molecules” which react “to enzymatically convert glucose into D‑glucono‑δ‑lactone (which hydrolyses into gluconic acid) and hydrogen peroxide”: this results in an electrical current, proportional to the amount of sugar in the blood, thus allowing a transducer to send this data to a device that can interpret the blood sugar from these readings. These molecules have been attached onto the “surface of metallic nanoparticles, including… gold and platinum nanoparticles, as well as carbon nanotubes”. Moreover, nanosensors based on carbon nanotubes using “the binding of glucose to the sensor to provide a fluorescent or voltammetric readout” “have demonstrated remarkable longevity. For example, carbon nanotubes… remained functional for more than 400 days when implanted… into mice”.
Furthermore, nanoparticles have been used to help increase insulin secretion. “The gene encoding glucagon‑like peptide 1 has been delivered via nanoparticles” to boost the production of insulin and increase the viability of transplant islets (to find out more about islet transplants, click here).
Although the use of nanotechnology for controlling and monitoring diabetes is very recent, I hope that this research will continue for many years and will lead to great advances in the search for the cure for diabetes.