Researchers have developed genetically engineered human cells that can produce insulin in response to a small electric current. The cells undergo a chain reaction triggered by reactive oxygen species (ROS) when an electric current is applied, leading to the activation of the insulin-producing gene. In a proof-of-concept experiment, the engineered cells were implanted into mice and successfully released insulin when an electrified acupuncture needle stimulated them.
The study, published in Nature Metabolism, suggests that this technology could be used to create medical implants for better treatments of type 1 diabetes. By using electricity to control biological processes, researchers can target genetic diseases by switching specific genes on or off in implanted cells to produce essential proteins. The ability to stimulate cells to produce insulin on demand could help people with type 1 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels more effectively and avoid hyperglycemia.
The engineered cells have a synthetic promoter sequence that responds to ROS by producing insulin. The researchers implanted these cells into a device under the skin of mice with hyperglycemia and successfully controlled insulin release by varying the strength and duration of the electric current. They envision wearable medical devices controlled by computers or smartphones that could incorporate this technology in the future.
Despite the promising results, the technology is still in its early stages, and further research is needed before testing it in humans. More studies with larger sample sizes and different mouse models are required to fully explore the potential applications of this system.
Article written by Lilly Tozer