JDRF, U. of Toronto back smart skin patch to prevent hypoglycemia

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University of Toronto scientists are working on a skin patch that detects low blood sugar in diabetics and automatically delivers glucagon, a hormone that turns glycogen back into glucose, to prevent hypoglycemia. The work is supported by a $400,000 grant from JDRF and the University of Toronto.

Hypoglycemia can be a side effect of insulin therapy and can cause patients to experience confusion, shakiness and heart palpitations, among other symptoms. The University of Toronto team is working on a wearable skin patch to ward off hypoglycemia. The microneedle transdermal patch will automatically sense low blood sugar levels and correct them by delivering glucagon, or other regulatory hormones, according to a statement.

It may take diabetics who wake up with low blood sugar hours to brings their glucose levels back up to normal. Such a patch could address this problem, improving the quality of life for diabetics. Additionally, diabetics must also track their meals and blood sugar ahead of activities such as exercise or driving.

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"We anticipate that these innocuous and painlessly worn transdermal patches will effectively minimize hypoglycemia, and ultimately lead to solutions for controlling hypoglycemia overnight and while doing daily activities such as driving," said JDRF Canada CEO Dave Prowten in the statement.

"This system is intended to autonomously prevent nocturnal hypoglycemia and/or facilitate intensive insulin therapy during the day without fear of hypoglycemic episodes," said the University of Toronto’s Dr. Shirley Wu, principal investigator, and Dr. Adria Giacca, co-investigator, in the statement. "We hope to develop a 'smart' transdermal patch which does not require complex mechanical and electronic parts and is affordable for all patients."