New technology can free diabetics from daily jabs

Scientists claim to have developed a new technology which could free diabetics, cancer and HIV patients from daily and painful routine injections by releasing the required drug dosage over six months.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed injectable, reformable and spreadable hydrogels which can be loaded with proteins or other therapeutics and can last a maximum of six month.

The hydrogels contain up to 99.7 per cent water by weight, with the remainder primarily made up of cellulose polymers held together with cucurbiturils, barrel-shaped molecules which act as miniature ‘handcuffs,’ the journal Biomaterials reported.

“The hydrogels protect the proteins so that they remain bio-active for long periods, and allow the proteins to remain in their native state,” says Oren Scherman, a Cambridge chemist, who led the research.

“Importantly, all the components can be incorporated at room temperature, which is key when dealing with proteins which denature (change their composition) when exposed to high heat,” said Scherman in a statement.

The hydrogels developed by Scherman, Xian Jun Loh and doctoral student Eric Appel are capable of delivering sustained release of the proteins for up to six months, compared with the current maximum of three months. The rate of release can be controlled according to the ratio of materials in the hydrogel.

The long-term sustained release would be especially useful in resource-deprived or rural settings where patients requiring daily medication may not have regular access to a doctor.

“There’s been a lot of research that shows patients who need to take a pill each day for the rest of their lives, especially HIV patients in Africa who do not show any obvious symptoms, will take the pills for a maximum of six months before they stop, negating the point of taking the medication in the first place,”  Appel said.

The research has been patented by Cambridge Enterprise, the university’s commercialisation group. 

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