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A patch above the rest?

08 August 2012

Researchers have developed a new insulin ‘patch’ that is showing promise in clinical trials. The patch delivers insulin into the body through the skin, without the need for injections.

The U-strip is a patch that is attached to the skin and can hold enough insulin for a few days at a time. Insulin is a large molecule so traditional patches such as those used for nicotine delivery cannot deliver insulin through the small pores in the skin. This patch is different as it is electronically controlled by a hand held device. The control device uses ultrasound waves to widen the pores in the skin to allow insulin in when in is needed.

But this system is more than just an insulin delivery patch. It can be programmed to deliver different amounts of insulin and the control device can keep a record of how much insulin has been used and when. The device can also record blood glucose measurement so that glucose control can be monitored over time. 

The patch has completed a small clinical trial in the US and researchers are now hoping to begin a larger trial of 500 people to see if it can work more effectively than an insulin pump.

So far, the trials are being conducted in people with type 2 diabetes but in the future the patch may be also be tested on people with type 1. People with type 2 do not always need their insulin dose controlled as tightly as people with type 1, therefore new insulin therapies are sometimes tested in people with type 2 first to see if they are effective in getting insulin into the system.

Maebh Kelly, Research Communication Officer at JDRF said, ‘Widening pores in the skin so that insulin can get through may make insulin patches a reality. However, it remains to be seen if the patch can deliver an accurate enough dose of insulin to be useful for people with type 1’. 

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