Patients diagnosed with Diabetes 1 and advanced cases of Diabetes 2 often have to give themselves painful insulin injections – sometimes as many as several per day. Researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State have developed a nanotechnology platform that may enable diabetics to have their insulin delivered painlessly via a handheld ultrasound device that would release nanoparticles infused with the essential hormone.
The nanoparticles used in the study are made of poly(lactic-co-glycolic) acid (PLGA). They were coated with alginate and chitosan which have negative and positive charges so that they would form a “nano-network” through which the insulin’s release could be controlled. In studies done on mice, the nanotechnology networks were administered subcutaneously and then activated through focused ultrasound, providing insulin for up to ten days and eliminating the need for days’ worth of injections.
Nanotechnology innovations have been found to be effective in the treatment of a number of difficult diseases and recently received a lot of attention when UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center used them in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. In the UCLA application, two different nanotechnology particles were used: one created a path to the cancer while the other followed and delivered a reservoir of chemotherapeutic medication. The treatment was devised by Andre Nel, a UCLA nanomedicine professor and Huan Meng, an adjunct assistant professor.
The Food and Drug Administration, as well as many of their European equivalents, have approved a variety of drug delivery approaches using PLGA. The use of the copolymer is particularly attractive because it degrades so easily. When it breaks down it produces lactic acid and glycolic acid, two monomers that the body is accustomed to processing and which have minimal toxicity. Other studies into the use of nanotechnology are focused on the delivery of vaccines and even for non-invasive imaging techniques.
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