New implantable device helps control diabetes without insulin injection

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Engineers at MIT have developed an innovative implantable device that could revolutionize the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

The device contains insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells along with an onboard oxygen factory, extending the lifespan of the implanted cells.

Initial tests in diabetic mice showed the device successfully stabilized blood glucose levels for at least a month.

The researchers believe this technology could be adapted for treating other conditions requiring the delivery of therapeutic proteins.

How It Works

The new device consists of hundreds of thousands of islet cells and an oxygen-generating system that splits water vapor present in the body.

It uses a proton-exchange membrane to divide water vapor into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is stored in a chamber that feeds the islet cells.

The process requires only a small voltage generated through resonant inductive coupling, allowing wireless power transfer from an external coil worn as a skin patch.

Testing and Results

In tests involving diabetic mice, those implanted with the oxygen-generating device maintained stable blood sugar levels.

In contrast, mice that received non-oxygenated devices experienced elevated blood sugar levels within two weeks.

The success suggests that insulin could still be effectively delivered even if scar tissue forms around the implant, a common issue with implanted medical devices.

Wider Applications and Future Plans

Beyond diabetes, the researchers suggest the device could be modified to treat other conditions requiring long-term delivery of therapeutic proteins.

They demonstrated its potential by successfully maintaining cells that produce erythropoietin, a protein that stimulates red blood cell production.

The next steps involve testing the device in larger animals and eventually humans, aiming for an implant the size of a stick of chewing gum that can operate for extended periods.


This groundbreaking technology could provide a sustainable, long-term alternative to daily insulin injections for type 1 diabetes patients.

If successful in future trials, it could redefine diabetes management and open new avenues for treating a variety of chronic conditions.

If you care about diabetes, please read studies that eating more eggs is linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, and how to eat to reduce heart disease death risk if you have diabetes.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about high-protein diets linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, and results showing Mediterranean diet could help reduce the diabetes risk by one-third.

The research findings can be found in PNAS.

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