The Last Jab for Diabetics? – Alternatives For Insulin Injections And Blood Testing

2009-02-21 | |
Last updated: 2019-10-23

For insulin-dependent diabetics, pinpricks and needles are an unpleasant, but necessary part of daily life. The pinpricks are required to obtain a small blood sample in order to measure blood sugar while the needles are required to inject an appropriate amount of insulin so that the body’s cells absorb the glucose out of the blood. This process must be repeated throughout the day since a diabetic with this condition essentially has to manually replace the natural functions of their damaged pancreas.

While many diabetics become used to all this poking, the reality is that this approach is crude and inconsistent. While a normal working pancreas is constantly adjusting the blood sugar levels, even diabetics who manage their blood sugar levels very well will have unhealthy blood sugar levels for periods of time that lead to accumulated damage to body tissues over the years.

What New Technologies Will Prevent the Need For Needle Pricks?

The good news, however, is that the number of daily jabs that diabetics have to inflict upon themselves may soon reduce with the advent of some new technologies and some new research findings. More importantly, the control of blood sugar may just get a little easier and more stable to reduce the long term damage caused to the body.

To simplify measuring blood sugar, a few new technologies have been created or are in the works. Both technologies involve getting a tattoo, although one will leave the more conservative among us feeling a little less anxiety! The tattoos are real with glucose sensitive dyes being placed beneath the skin, but in one case they are visible in normal light, while in the other case are only visible under the fluorescent lights at the disco. In any case, however, the tattooed area won’t attract much attention because the required size of the tattoo is only a few millimeters.

The technologies work by the dyes changing color or brightness depending on the glucose levels in the blood to act like your car’s wiper fluid indicator while requiring no blood sample be extracted. Because the dyes are constantly indicating the blood sugar level, they can be checked regularly to enable much tighter controls of blood glucose.

Getting a Constant View of Blood Sugar

With these technologies, those with diabetes can have a constant view of their blood sugar, but they would still need to inject insulin a number of times during the day. The potential for improvement here resides in reducing or eliminating the number of daily injections and that is where the research findings from scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center are very interesting.

The findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicate that leptin, a hormone naturally produced by fat cells, was able to reduce the glucose levels in the blood of rodents for periods of time longer than the 3 or 4 hours that insulin is typically active. On top of this, leptin, it seems, might also be something that could be taken orally and could replace insulin injections according to the scientists involved in the study.

While studies on rodents don’t automatically equate to a treatment for humans, the mention of clinical trials for leptin within the next year by the scientists publishing the study does suggest considerable promise.


Those with Type-1 Diabetes may soon be able to forget choosing a finger to prick and choosing where to inject the units of insulin. We can all look forward to respectfully saying, “Thank you Sir Banting for all you have done, but your services are no longer required”.

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