A team of scientists has created synthetic pancreatic beta cells that automatically release insulin when they sense high blood sugar. In the journal Nature Chemical Biology, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University in Raleigh describe how they developed and tested the synthetic cells. Senior author Zhen Gu, a professor in biomedical engineering at both universities, and team hope that one day, the cells could be used in a noninvasive skin patch to treat diabetes. They found that just one injection of the synthetic beta cells kept blood sugar in diabetic mice at normal levels for 5 days. Diabetes is a disease that develops when the body has problems with using or producing insulin, a hormone that helps cells to take in and convert blood sugar, or glucose, into energy. The body produces insulin in the pancreas, which is a glandular organ behind the stomach that houses the beta cells that make and release the right amount of the hormone, depending on glucose levels.
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