Researchers have developed "smart insulin," a type of insulin that could potentially transform the future of diabetes treatment. A single shot of this modified insulin could regulate blood glucose levels for a week, according to the results of animal trials.

Current diabetes treatment includes a combination of dietary restrictions and frequent painful injections of insulin. To find more manageable alternatives, researchers modified insulin that is already in use. When injected, this modified insulin enables automatic control of blood glucose levels for an extended period.

A team of researchers from Zhejiang University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill tested smart insulin on diabetic mice and minipigs. The results of the trials were published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Smart insulin is insulin modified with gluconic acid, which when injected into the body forms a complex with a polymer by bonding with chemicals in the bloodstream. The similarity in chemical structures between glucose and gluconic acid enables glucose to selectively induce the release of insulin, preferentially binding to the polymer. This process effectively mimics the natural function of the pancreas in response to elevated glucose levels.

The team tested modified insulin on three genetically engineered minipigs and five mice with diabetes. Two of the minipigs were given a high dose of the insulin, while the third received a low dose. Minipigs that received a low dose of modified insulin had steadier glucose regulation compared to those on high doses. Their blood sugar regulation was also steadier than control minipigs on standard insulin injection.

One limitation of the study is that only a few animals were involved in the trial. Researchers plan to continue to test smart insulin in more animals. Positive results in animals will pave the way for human trials, which could be a promising step in the field of diabetes treatment.