Smart Insulin Made Using Red Blood Cells?

This seems like a pretty cool technique, though of course it’s in mice. They essentially bound insulin molecules to a glucose-analog called glucosamine, and the whole ensemble acts like a smart insulin that operates when blood sugars are high. The insulin-glucosamine molecule binds via glucose receptors on red blood cells, sticking to them all the time. Once blood sugar levels are high enough, the glucosamine gets displaced by blood glucose and that frees up the insulin to enter the cells.

The paper:


This is actually a really smart control idea!

But it would require an IV injection every couple of days, though, wouldn’t it?

well lower down in the article they talk about using nanoparticles coated with the relevant membranes, rather than red blood cells themselves. This adds an additional layer of safety uncertainty, but it does allow for mass production. Still, yes, it seems like it would need an IV injection as far as I can tell. Personally though, I’d prefer that if it meant that for two or three days my child’s BG needs were covered totally. But from a payer perspective I can imagine it being a nonstarter.



Harold, these were really great! So well suited!

Maybe a nonstarter for the general population, but imagine if you used it when someone was really sick, or for someone who is really brittle. I think it could be an interesting approach, even if it required an infusion a couple of times a week.

Like many good ideas though, the ROI might not be there.

There’s another company that was doing something like this, based on research out of MIT. I think their version was just a modified injectable smart insulin (not IV). They had problems translating it to a workable human model, but are actually currently developing it for diabetic cats (which is a significant market apparently). I think they are still trying to get it ok for people, but something went wrong in their testing, so they unfortunately had to start a large part from scratch.

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Probably the same thing that seems to always go wrong in these trials…cats, rats, etc., have totally different autoimmune systems than humans…

Perhaps—I’m not sure that it was an autoimmune issue (I know someone who was an investor, which is how I got my info, but I don’t remember the details). But definitely true that in many respects you can’t assume things will translate from one species to another.

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