A team of doctors, engineers, and data scientists led by Dr. Talha Durrani of Peshawar’s Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) has developed a painless insulin delivery device using transdermal patches.
If mass-produced on a large scale, the device has the potential to replace traditional insulin injections/pens in the body.
The prototype of the device has passed initial bench testing and is undergoing further pilot laboratory tests, according to details. The team has already filed for a patent and is collaborating with academics in the United Kingdom.
While the device is still being tested, it has already attracted the attention of a few international investors.
According to a recent independent survey, diabetes is extremely common in Pakistan, with one out of every five people suffering from the disease. Pain associated with daily insulin injection treatment leads to a lower quality of life and treatment non-compliance, particularly in children.
Prof. Dennis Douroumis of England and Dr. Anam Abid, a Mechatronics Engineer who looked into more child-friendly and cost-effective solutions, worked as mentors with the team to provide oversight and guidance throughout the project, while Dr. Mian Ayaz ul Haq, a UK-based Consultant Neurologist, worked as a mentor with the team to provide oversight and guidance throughout the project.
Prof. Dennis, Professor of Process Engineering and Director of CIPER at the University of Greenwich in London, said exclusively to ProPakistani:
Our aim is to develop medical devices and dosage forms that are friendly to children and improve medication adherence.
Dr. Anam, Mechatronics Engineering Lecturer at the University of Engineering and Technology in Peshawar, added:
Only a handful of patients in the country can afford the less-invasive treatments available in some advanced countries. Therefore, we have developed an effective treatment that will be within reach of an average person once mass-produced.
According to Dr. Talha, a resident physician at Khyber Teaching Hospital in Peshawar:
No one person can innovate on their own. It’s a team game and involves field specialists with vastly different experiences to solve a single problem. I hope our work encourages doctors, engineers, business administrators, and investors to come together at one table and explore ideas for such projects.
Specifications of the project
While the team asked ProPakistani not to talk about how its device works because it is still being tested, Dr. Talha was kind enough to answer a few questions for our readers:
What’s the difference between the patch and the injection/pen when it comes to how quickly the drug is absorbed?
The standard insulin injection is subcutaneous, which means it uses a needle to get a drug into the tissue layer between the skin and the muscle. The patch is transdermal, which means it gets a drug into the body by going through the skin.
Published research on animals shows that the absorption ratio of the patch and the injection did not differ much when mice were used to test them.
Human testing hasn’t yet been done, but if an injection takes about a second to deliver the drug, and the human skin is about 4 times thicker than that of mice, the time it would take to give insulin through a patch would not exceed two seconds.
Years ago, Patches were used to help people who were hurt or sick. In what ways did insulin patches not work until now because of technical or medical problems?
They often prescribe patch-based medications like Scopolamine (to help with nausea) and Fentanyl (to help people who can’t sleep) (analgesic).
There is a problem with insulin because it is a much more unstable drug than many other medicines. This is why the skin must be pierced to get it to the inside.
There is now a direct relationship between the size of the needle and how painful it is. A 10 cc syringe needle is more painful than a 5 cc syringe needle because it has more blood. These two cause more pain than a needle that is 1 cc long, but a syringe needle smaller than the one that comes in the bottle would cause the least pain.
It’s hard to make an injection needle smaller than the one in the 1 cc syringe because it’s almost impossible to make one smaller than that one. In this case, experts thought that solid microneedles, which are so small that they can’t be seen with the naked eye and cause very little pain, might be a good idea in a patch. An insulin patch works by spraying insulin on it. The problem is that the microneedles can only transfer two units of insulin at a time through the patch. We also imported these patches and tried them out many times, but they didn’t work well enough for us to make money from them.
It was at the start of 2021 that modern machinery helped make hollow microneedles that don’t break and don’t cause problems when making them. These microneedles have been used in the patch and work well.
When it comes to cost, how much more cost-effective will these insulin patches be than the traditional insulin and injection system?
At this point, it’s hard to say how much it will cost because we might still make more prototypes. At this point, it costs Rs. 50 to make the applicator system for the patch. This is very similar to the way insulin and injections are made.
People in Pakistan’s academic world should work together to bring new ideas to life, the team said.
Doctor Creates Pakistan’s First Insulin Patches For Diabetic Patients. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2022, from https://propakistani.pk/2022/02/14/doctor-creates-pakistans-first-insulin-patches-for-diabetic-patients/