14 Feb 2015

Popcorn science

From This Way Up, 1:10 pm on 14 February 2015

Slowmotion popcorn CC BY SA At kg wiki
Slowmotion popcorn CC BY-SA 3.0.

Dr Chris Smith of The Naked Scientists on the physics of popcorn, smart insulin, and the prospect of a breath-test for Parkinson's disease.

Smart Insulin

Insulin and syringe for diabetes
Insulin and syringe commonly used to manage type 1 diabetes.

A new smart insulin engineered in the lab can automatically respond to changing blood sugar levels, raising the prospect of more effective treatments for diabetics.

Dr Chris Smith from the Naked Scientists told This Way Up's Simon Morton that treatment with insulin has revolutionised the control of diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes occurs when individuals cannot produce enough of the hormone insulin themselves, leading to high blood sugar levels and damage to organs including the eyes, kidneys, nervous system and blood vessels.

Self-administering insulin by injection has become the most important treatment  But diabetics are still at risk of side effects caused by low and high blood sugar levels because it's difficult to get the dosage exactly right.

Now a team of scientists led by Daniel Anderson at MIT has engineered a form of insulin that can circulate in an inactive state in the blood, but then springs to life in response to blood sugar levels. Injected into mice with the rodent equivalent of diabetes, the new drug controlled blood sugar levels including infusions of sugar to mimic meals, for many hours.

Dr Smith says the study sounds promising.

"This strongly suggests you could have a pill or an injection...that you could administer once a day, and it would control your blood sugar through the day without a person having to worry about measuring their blood sugar or supplementing their insulin levels".