Insulin Nation: ‘Smart Insulin’ More an Exciting Theory than Reality


We recently shared news about anew MIT studythat used mice models to test an injectable smart insulin. This insulin activates only when there are traces of excess glucose in the bloodstream, an innovation which could potentially eliminate or lower the risk of hypoglycemia.

Such a treatment could revolutionize insulin treatment for Type 1 diabetes. Unfortunately, it might be tough to predict when, or even if, human trials might begin, says Dr. Matthew Webber, a co-author for the study who is doing a postdoctoral fellowship for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT.

These things are very difficult, I think, says Webber. It could be anywhere from a few years to a few decades or never.

Using funds provided by the Helmsley Charitable Trust, a group of chemists, led by Dr. Danny Chou, began to experiment with grafting molecules onto insulin in labs at MITs Koch Institute. The chemists ultimately attached a glucose sensor molecule called phenylboronic acid (PBA) onto regular insulin molecules, creating the smart insulin theyre calling Ins-PBA-F. Molecule manipulation is not a new technique, but it does take some work. The group first tried attaching nanoparticles, hydrogels, and polymers to insulin molecules before settling on the PBA molecule.