A team of scientists has developed a thermostable variety of insulin that can be stored without being placed in a refrigerator. The crucial discovery was made under the leadership of two researchers in Kolkata and is good news for diabetes patients.
Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas to allow cells to use glucose. It regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein by promoting the absorption of glucose from the blood into the liver, fat, and skeletal muscle cells. Decreased or absent insulin activity results in diabetes mellitus, a condition of high blood sugar level. When a body stops producing or using insulin, doctors inject insulin into the body to control the blood sugar.
Insulin is currently stored at 4 °C. If it gets hot above this degree or if it is left out of the refrigerator for 12 hours continuously, it will be useless. Diabetic patients need to carry insulin along with them wherever they travel and it might cause inconvenience during travel. However, researchers said that insulin can now be kept outside the refrigerator as long as a diabetic patient wants it, the latest discovery said. As per the new discovery, the new variety can withstand a temperature of up to 65 °C. It can be used for months even if it is kept outside the refrigerator.
Two scientists of the Bose Institute and the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB) led the research program. Two others from the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad accompanied them in the research. The paper was published in the international journal Science. Researchers are now preparing to approach the Department of Science and Technology to conduct experiments on humans. For the time being the discovery is named ‘Insu-lok’.
As per the rough estimates by the scientists, around eight crore people in the country are affected by diabetes. In Kolkata alone, about 13% of the population is diabetic, half of whom are dependent on insulin injections.