"Smart" Insulin: Medicine's Next Big Thing?

Imagine how tough it is for new parents to find out their baby has diabetes and then have to learn as they go how to regulate blood sugar and dose insulin.

A mistake could bring coma or death. But now, a researcher in Utah's "smart" insulin could someday eliminate guesswork and more.

Seven-year-old Foster Dunstan was diagnosed with type I diabetes as a baby.

Tricia Dunstan, Foster's mom, told Ivanhoe, "It was overwhelming."

Tricia balances Foster's food, blood sugar monitoring, and insulin doses. "It took me about a year and a half to start to feel ok with the daily routine. I felt that I went from meal to snack to meal to snack," she explained.

Now, Foster tests his own blood sugar eight to 12 times a day and injects insulin if he needs it.

Danny Chou, PhD, Biochemist at the University of Utah is developing an injectable "smart" insulin to reduce the work and the guesswork of diabetics like

Foster. A glucose sensor is attached to an insulin molecule. If blood sugar is good, the insulin is dormant. When blood sugar rises, the sensor turns the insulin molecule on.

Professor Chou told Ivanhoe, "Because of the binding, you will generate a chemical modification and we use that modification to design a switch that can control the activity of the insulin."

Tricia says for her and Foster, "smart" insulin would make life immeasurably easier. "We'd like to see it as soon as possible, of course I would've liked to have seen it yesterday," she said.

The Dunstans will have to wait a little while to get their hands on the smart insulin. Chou figures it will be three to five years before it gets to human clinical trials. Then it will be up to the FDA to approve it for market.

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