Open Insulin & Synthetic Skin, What’s New in D?

Another diabetes breakthrough appeared on Aussie tv the other night. So what’s the deal?

An amazing doctor at Royal Adelaide Hospital who created a synthetic “skin” for use in burns and surgical wounds showed this “skin” to an expert in islet cell transplants.  They agreed that this synthetic skin could, potentially, be used to create a less invasive means of transplanting islet cells. This method of implanting the cells offers some advantages over the current method of implanting into the liver via the portal vein. The cells can be monitored more easily and can be easily replaced should technology change.

This is a cool use of a technology but it’s not going to have any impact on us yet.

The procedure is going to be trialled BUT it still relies on implanted islet cells that come from cadavers. This means that very few transplants can be performed because of the shortage of donors AND immunosuppression is required. The side effects of immunosuppresion are fairly nasty, so you’d only really consider it if you had severe hypo awareness.  So, the key problems in islet cell transplants remain, that is the need to take nasty meds to stop your immune system rejecting the foreign bodies AND the severe shortage of donated pancreases from which to harvest the islet cells. I read somewhere that it’s only something like about 20 pancreases that become available for transplantation in Australia in any year. I could be wrong on this-if you know more please let me know in the comments section.

This isn’t really the breakthrough the news promised (well, knock me over with a feather) but it’s a little bit exciting because it’s out of left field and potentially improves upon an existing successful treatment and is going to be trialled rather than just being a theory.

chemistrysetTalking about cool technology, I am also excited about biohacking. You’ve heard about we are not waiting and hacking an artificial pancreas, well some DIY scientists are trying to create an open source insulin-way to go guys!!  This is exciting because affordable insulin would save the lives of thousands in countries less fortunate than Australia. Disrupting the big pharma oligopoly on insulin production would be no bad thing.

A team of biohackers is developing the first open source protocol to produce insulin simply and economically. Our work may serve as a basis for generic production of this life-saving drug and provide a firmer foundation for continued research into improved versions of insulin.” PBS article about the Counter Culture Labs

I’d be really surprised (but overjoyed) to see this bunch of “Oakland hackers” produce a viable insulin but nobody expected Banting and Best to come up with the elixir of life for people with diabetes either.


Posted this yesterday and this morning I just saw breaking news about “Lilly-backed smartphone-enabled insulin pen.  I don’t use pens so I’m not sure how much of a help this is-it does appear useful in capturing data-& pre-pump days sometimes it was hard to remember if you’d had your insulin or not. This really needs to be integrated with a glucose monitor as well in my opinion to make it worthwhile. If you’re on pens though, check it out, Smartphone insulin pen FDA approved.

Got any wildly or mildly exciting news about D to share?


2 thoughts on “Open Insulin & Synthetic Skin, What’s New in D?

  1. It certainly is amazing and these are the real achievers in the diabetes world, quiet, unassuming dedicated individuals making a real difference, and may i add NOT FOR PROFIT! It restores my faith in humanity to see this kind of work being done.

    1. Yes, thanks for that comment, you’re right, it’s really encouraging to see people doing something that’s not entirely driven by desire for profit.

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