Wayne State Research Team Awarded $3 Million Grant to Research “Smart” Insulin T1D Treatment


A Wayne State University research team in Detroit has been awarded a $3-million grant from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to develop an implantable delivery system of “smart” insulin for sufferers of Type 1 Diabetes (T1D).

T1D develops when a patient’s immune system attacks and destroys pancreatic beta cells, the only cells that can make the hormone insulin. More than one million individuals in the U.S. are affected by T1D, and there are approximately 100,000 new cases diagnosed every year.

“Smart” insulin, or glucose-responsive insulin, is a promising treatment that could supplant more-invasive traditional procedures and ensure ideal daily glucose control for patients. Insulin injections are currently the most common treatment method. Alternative approaches such as transplantation or immune therapies are being studied.

Zhiqiang Cao, associate professor of chemical engineering at WSU, is leading the team that is developing an implantable technology with glucose-responsive insulin release and long-term therapeutic capabilities. It adjusts the dose of working insulin as needed, similar to a healthy pancreas. Compared with even the most state-of-the-art methods, the technology shows a superior capability to achieve insulin independence for T1D patients, Cao says.

“The formulation is expected to function for weeks, long after administration, or even longer depending on the dose, and is retrievable and replaceable to extend the therapeutics for an even longer period of time,” says Cao.

Cao believes this technology is the next milestone for “smart” insulin development, significantly improving the life of T1D patients by offering long-term blood glucose control.