Tiny, painless microneedles on a patch can deliver insulin in response to rising glucose levels. Credit: American Chemical Society

Treatment for certain diabetes cases involves constant monitoring of blood-glucose levels and daily insulin shots. Scientists from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC), North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC), and the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry (Changchun, P.R. China) have created a painless “smart” patch that monitors blood glucose and releases insulin when levels climb too high.

Individuals with Type 1 or advanced Type 2 diabetes regularly prick their fingers to measure blood-sugar levels, and some patients must inject themselves with insulin when needed.

Zhen Gu and researchers sought a simpler, shot-free way to manage diabetes.

The researchers developed a skin patch covered in painless microneedles. Each tiny needle contains tiny insulin-carrying pouches. The pouches are engineered to break apart rapidly and release the insulin in response to rising glucose levels.

Diabetic mice wearing the patch maintained consistent concentrations of insulin in their blood. When the mice received a shot of glucose, their blood sugar levels spiked initially, but then fell to normal levels within two hours.