Against diabetes, cells controlled by the phone

Against diabetes, cells controlled by the phone
The researchers used engineered cells and activated at a distance from an application on your smartphone to control your blood sugar in diabetic mice.

The smartphone sends the signal, the implanted cells in the body are activated and release insulin : the system, so far tested only on mice, was able to control the diabetes for two weeks. A demonstration of principle of how it might work a medical device of the future that combines electronics and tissue engineering.

Against diabetes, cells controlled by the phone The researchers used engineered cells and activated at a distance from an application on your smartphone to control your blood sugar in diabetic mice.


LIGHT TO SET IN MOTION THE CELLS. The idea to produce the insulin needed to diabetic patients through healthy cells or tissues implanted in the body is not new, the problem is how to realize it in practice, so that the system is accurate and reliable.

The device developed by researchers of the East China Normal University in Shanghai, to act as a bridge between the electronic device and the biological system is a technique called optogenetics , which allows you to use the light-sensitive proteins to regulate biological functions of the organism.

As described in the study published in Science Translational Medicine, the researchers created cells that can produce insulin when they are illuminated by infrared light, and placed them on a biocompatible gel capsule, containing also some red light LEDs. The device, about the size of a coin, was then implanted under the skin on the backs of mice. A remote control of the power of the LEDs is an application installed on a smartphone: when the lights come on in response the cells begin producing insulin.

BLOOD GLUCOSE UNDER CONTROL. The most advanced version of the system also contains a sensor that can measure the glucose in the blood of animals and to transmit the information via Bluetooth to the app that, in turn, if necessary, starts the production of insulin. For about fifteen days, the blood sugar of the animals was kept under control in this way.

OPEN POSSIBILITY. The device is not yet ready for human trials. They must first be overcome various safety tests and the system should be improved, for example by calibrating accurately the intensity of light needed to stimulate the production of insulin. For use on people, instead of an implant under the skin of the device with the LEDs, the researchers think a bracelet that contains them, while the cells would still injected.

Already today for diabetic patients are available the first entirely automatic pumps for the administration of insulin, and it is not said that this system, even once perfected, is more efficient. But the idea of ??using engineered cells to release drugs and medicinal substances, activated by light and remotely operated, could be applied to manage other diseases.

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