Espresso replaces insulin in potentially groundbreaking diabetes treatment
A team led by Biotechnologist Martin Fussenegger at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology believes it has developed an insulin substitute that can be activated by caffeine. The breakthrough paves the way for the diabetic’s shot in the arm to be replaced by an extra shot of espresso in morning Americanos.
“You could completely integrate this into your lifestyle,” Fussenegger said in a statement cited by New Scientist. “You have a tea or coffee in the morning, another after lunch, and another at dinner, depending on how much drug you need to get your glucose back down.”
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Researchers developed an implant by taking human kidney cells and changing their makeup so they produce insulin. The implant, fitted with a receptor capable of detecting when caffeine is present and releasing insulin, was then inserted under the skin of 10 diabetic mice.
The animals were then given coffee with their meals. The results of the study, published this month in the journal Nature Communications, showed that the tests raised the blood sugar levels in diabetic and non-diabetic mice.
However, the implant will not be on the market any time soon, with some reports suggesting the device won’t be ready for human use for another 10 years.
The safety of the device might be a point of concern for some, especially people wary of overdosing on insulin through food consumption. “To my knowledge there are no other significant sources of caffeine in food,” said Fussenegger. “Even very small trace amounts of caffeine will not trigger the system.”
More than 400 million people around the world suffer from diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. Controlling blood sugar is vital to managing the condition which is rising rapidly in middle and low-income countries.
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