Nanoparticles Help Detect and Treat Diabetes

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Diabetes is a condition which has rapidly become a major health issue in today's society. Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that diabetes will become the 7th most common cause of death by 2030. To try and combat this, researchers from Stanford University have developed a new microchip incorporating nanotechnology to help detect type-1 diabetes outside of traditional hospital based tests.

Nanotech Microchip to Diagnose Type-1 Diabetes

Researchers from Stanford University developed the chip as a cheap, portable, microchip-based test for diagnosing type-1 diabetes. The new technology could dramatically help improve patient care and also assist in a better understanding of the disease.

The microchip-based test uses nanotechnology to distinguish between the two main forms of diabetes mellitus. Traditional methods for detecting diabetes are slow, expensive and are only available in well-equipped health-care centres.

How Does it Work?

The microchip uses fluorescence to detect the antibodies. The glass plates forming the base of each microchip are coated with a large number of gold nanoparticle-sized 'islands'. These gold islands allow the researchers to amplify the fluorescent signal and ultimately obtain reliable antibody detection.

With the new test, not only do we anticipate being able to diagnose diabetes more efficiently and more broadly, we will also understand diabetes better — both the natural history and how new therapies impact the body.

Brian Feldman, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology

The gold nanoparticle islands ensure the generation of nanogaps that support the enhanced electric field and surface plasmonic resonance for improved NIR-FE detetction by ~100-fold.

 Photo of Brian Feldman holding one of the microchips - Image Credit: Stanford University School of Medicine Office of Communication & Public Affairs  

It also allowed the researchers to generate multiplexed islet antigen microarrays. 

Other Projects

Researchers from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have been using nanoparticles designed to detect glucose levels in the body and then react by releasing the exact amount of insulin the body needs. This essentially replaces the function of pancreatic islet cells, which are destroyed in patients suffering from this disease. 

Insulin really works, but the problem is people don’t always get the right amount of it. With this system of extended release, the amount of drug secreted is proportional to the needs of the body.

Daniel Anderson, associate professor of chemical engineering

Current technology relies on patients pricking their finger several times a day to draw blood for testing blood-sugar levels. The patients will then inject themselves with insulin to break down the excess sugar. 

The researchers from MIT designed the gel to be sensitive to acidity. The nanoparticles contain spheres of dextran which are loaded with an enzyme that converts glucose into gluconic acid. The gel allows the glucose to diffuse freely so when sugar levels are high, the enzyme creates large amounts of gluconic acid creating a more acidic environment. This environment causes the dextran spheres to disintegrate, releasing insulin.  

Looking Forward

It seems likely that diabetes is set to become an increasing health risk in the near future. Nanotechnology may offer the answer in the detection and treatment of the disease and ultimately offer patients an easier and cheaper alternative compared with current technology. 

Whatever the solution may be, the research conducted by these scientists using the advancements made in nanotechnology, could offer the key to understanding how this disease works and the best way to treat it. 



Stuart Milne

Written by

Stuart Milne

Stuart graduated from the University of Wales, Institute Cardiff with a first-class honours degree in Industrial Product Design. After working on a start-up company involved in LED Lighting solutions, Stuart decided to take an opportunity with AZoNetwork. Over the past five years at AZoNetwork, Stuart has been involved in developing an industry leading range of products, enhancing client experience and improving internal systems designed to deliver significant value for clients hard earned marketing dollars. In his spare time Stuart likes to continue his love for art and design by creating art work and continuing his love for sketching. In the future Stuart, would like to continue his love for travel and explore new and exciting places.


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