Diabetes affects more than 24 million people in the United States. New technology and medical advances surface everyday that get us one step closer to find the cure.
New technology that delivers a sustained release of therapeutics for up to six months could also be used to help with routine injections for health conditions like HIV/AIDS, various forms of cancer and diabetes.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have created reformable, injectable and spreadable hydrogels that can be loaded with proteins and various other therapeutics. These hydrogels contain 99.7 percent of water by weight with the remaining percent being made up of cellulose polymers that are held together by cucurbiturils, which are barrel-shaped molecules that can act as a miniature pair of handcuffs.
Leader of the research and the Department of Chemistry, Dr Oren Scherman said, “The hydrogels protect the proteins so that they remain bio-active for long periods, and allow the proteins to remain in their native state. Importantly, all the components can be incorporated at room temperature, which is key when dealing with proteins which denature when exposed to high heat.”
Scherman, DrXian Jun Loh and PhD student Eric Appel, who developed that hydrogels, says that “they are capable of delivering a sustained release of the proteins that they contain for up to six months, compared with the current maximum of three months”. The rate of release can be controlled due to the ratio of materials that are in the hydrogel.
Hydrogels double the window of content release and use less non-water material than the current technology does. An extra material serves as scaffolding of sorts that holds the hydrogel together. However, the performance can be affected, so the lesser structure formation material that is contained in the hydrogel can help it to perform more effectively.
Drug therapy is moving further away from small molecule drugs and more toward protein-based therapy. Applications of insulin treatment, wound healing and hormone therapy are all ideal candidates for hydrogels.
More than a quarter of the 2.9 million individuals within the UK who have been diagnosed with diabetes have to inject themselves daily with insulin so that they can control their blood sugar levels. By using the insulin that is injected with the hydrogel the number of daily injections could be reduced to just two a year.
Appel said, “There’s been a lot of research that shows patients who need to take a pill each day for the rest of their lives, especially HIV patients in Africa who do not show any obvious symptoms, will take the pills for a maximum of six months before they stop, negating the point of taking the medication in the first place. If patients only have to take one shot which will give them six month’s worth of medication, we’ll have a much greater chance of affecting an entire population and slowing or stopping the progression of a disease.”
The research team is working with other researchers at the Brain Repair Center in the Department of Clinical Medicine. They are hoping to find out how the technology can be used to treat brain cancer.