In Future, ‘Sugar Sponges’ Could Help Control Diabetes

| June 28, 2017

Conventional diabetes treatments are a pain, involving risks of hypoglycaemia and drug side effects, and the hassle of daily insulin injections. But now, Chinese scientists have come up with a different approach – a microscopic “sugar sponge” that mops up glucose when blood sugar levels are high and releases it when they are low.

Researchers from Tongji University’s medical and materials science schools got together to work out a drug-free way of controlling blood sugar levels. Their cutting-edge invention is a nano-sized “lectin-bound glycopolymersome”. The researchers refer to this as a sugar-breathing sponge, which is a pretty good description of the way it works.

Lectins are proteins capable of binding to sugars, and the one the scientists used has a specific affinity to glucose. When blood sugar levels are high, the lectin binds to glucose molecules and takes them out of circulation. The researchers found they could wrap this lectin around little balls of a sugar-containing polymer which act as glucose storage units, swelling as they fill up.

Although this glucose is still physically present in the blood vessels, it is locked up in the polymer balls, so has no adverse effects. Then, when blood sugar levels start to drop too low, the system works the other way around, with glucose being released from the storage units into the blood stream, where cells can take it up to create energy.

The scientists tested their sugar sponges by injecting them into type 1 diabetic mice. The blood sugar levels of these mice started to drop immediately, and after two hours were comparable with those of non-diabetic controls. The effect lasted for around two days, after which the blood sugar levels of the diabetic mice gradually rose again.

There is still a lot of product development and human clinical trials to be done, but some day we could see the sugar sponge as a useful alternative or co-treatment to insulin and antidiabetic drugs, reducing the risks of harmful side effects.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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1. Xiao Y, Sun H, Du J. Sugar-breathing glycopolymersomes for regulating glucose level. J Am Chem Soc. 2017; 139(22):7640-7647.

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Category: Diabetes Drugs

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