Health Team

Patch could replace pinpricks, pump for diabetics

Posted February 21, 2016

Finger pricks, insulin needles and a pump are part of a regular day for Mark Baumgarten. He has Type 1 diabetes. His body stopped producing insulin when he was 10 years old, so when his blood sugar level gets high, he uses a pump to inject insulin.

Baumgarten is one of about 29 million Americans with diabetes. While he is used to the pricks and the pump, a local researcher is trying to make life just a little bit easier for Baumgarten and others with the disease.

Zhen Gu, a joint professor at both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, has created what he calls a "smart patch."

“The smart insulin patch is a smart device which can release insulin at the right time especially once the blood sugar level goes high,” Gu said.

He says the patch would eliminate the need for shots and needles for diabetes patients.

“Diabetic patients need to monitor their blood sugar levels frequently then preform multiple injections every day, which is quite painful,” Gu said.

The patch is about the size of this penny. It contains adhesive and more than 100 micro-needles that measure blood sugar and administer insulin as necessary.

It can be worn on the arm or the stomach.

Each patch costs about $2, and a single patch lasts for about a day.

Baumgarten, who spends about $2,000 on his diabetes per year, could see a considerable cost savings by switching to the patch.

He's not sure he's ready to change his daily ritual, though.

“I’m not necessarily sure that I would use it just because I am very accustomed to the pump,” Baumgarten said.

He says the patch might be most helpful for children who don’t know how to manage their diabetes or for those who don’t like taking shots.

It could be more than a year before the patch is ready for consumer use.

McKenzie Bennett reported this story as part of the UNC MediaHub.


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