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Light Technology May Be Used to Control Type 2 Diabetes

Use of blue LED light activates sulfonylureas…

The use of sulfonylureas has long been an option for controlling type 2 diabetes. Their use is often associated with hypoglycemia and weight gain. A new technology seeks to minimize these side effects. Researchers are looking at a prototype sulfonylurea, JB253, which stimulates insulin release from pancreatic beta cells only when exposed to blue LED light.

After ingesting the medication, it would remain inactive until the patient switches on the LED light. Researchers suggest that only a small amount of light would be necessary to activate the medication. Once the light has been switched off, the medication will revert back to its inactive state.

According to researcher Dr. David Hodson, “in principle, this type of therapy may allow better control over blood sugar levels because it can be switched on for a short time when required after a meal. It should also reduce complications by targeting drug activity to where it’s needed in the pancreas.”

While the technology shows promise, it will be many years before it is made available. Current studies have been performed solely on pancreatic cells in vitro. Regardless of the time it may take until approval and widespread use is seen, this technology is worth noting. It can potentially provide better glycemic control with fewer unintended side effects which is always critical when selecting a medication regimen for diabetes patients.

Practice Pearls:

  • JB253 is a prototype sulfonylurea that uses blue LED light to stimulate insulin release from the pancreas.
  • The medication would remain inactive until the light is switched on and would be inactive once the light is switched back off.
  • While this technology is years away from being available on the market, it could provide tighter glycemic control while minimizing the side effects commonly seen in current sulfonylureas.

Johannes Broichhagen, et al. Optical control of insulin release using a photoswitchable sulfonylurea. Nature Communications. October 2014.