A newly developed insulin delivery system has been shown to control blood sugar levels for two days in mice with type 1 diabetes, according to new research.
This new technique involves modifying insulin and red blood cells to create a "smart" insulin delivery system that is responsive to glucose.
Teams from the North Carolina (NC) State University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill say this latest finding could potentially become one of the "most exciting advances in diabetes care" if it works in human beings.
In this new trial, the delivery system effectively reduced blood sugar levels in the mice for 48 hours.
As part of the study the mice, which were engineered to have type 1 diabetes, were split into three groups and given different medication.
One group received modified insulin; another group was given a saline solution; and the third group got a mixture of unmodified insulin and red blood cells.
Study co-author Zhen Gu, who is an associate professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and UNC, said: "In short, this is a fully biocompatible smart system that responds, when needed, to normalise glucose levels in the blood.
"This is a positive result, because it bodes well for developing a standardised means of delivering this glucose regulation system."
The plan, should the combined medication prove to work in humans, is that the insulin-loaded blood cells could then be injected into a person with diabetes to control their glucose levels for longer.
Dr John Buse, another co-author of the project, said: "The team will further evaluate the long-term biocompatibility of the modified insulin system in an animal model before determining whether to move to clinical trials. The vision, if realised, would be one of the most exciting advances in diabetes care."
Dr Gu added: "We are also exploring the use of painless microneedles to deliver this system, rather than relying on the conventional injections which were used in this study. The possibility of using a different drug delivery system makes it difficult to assess cost, but we're optimistic that the cost of the potential formulation would be comparable to existing treatments."
The findings have been published online in the journal Advanced Materials.