December 30, 2011

Radiating yellow to control blood glucose

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Never in a million years would I think of a non-violent strain of bacteria being used as an indicator for blood glucose. Happy New Year! Thanks to the brainchild of a team of Missouri University of Science and Technology students this may be in store for a future testing strip in diabetes.

If you have diabetes – you are familiar with glucose testing. If you’re irritated more by the exorbitant cost of the strips than you are by the nuisance of the bloodshed – you’ll appreciate the work of the members of the Missouri S&T chapter of iGEN (International Genetically Engineered Medicine) Foundation. They’ve developed a way to use bacteria to detect blood glucose, instead of the chemical interaction used by test strips today. Bacteria prove to be cheaper than the chemical process currently used by glucose strips.

The system involves bacteria that have DNA that would sense a change in the concentration of glucose in the blood. For their project, the students designed genes that allow the bacteria a non-virulent strain of E. coli to sense the presence of the simple sugar glucose. The bacteria emit a yellow glow when glucose is present. As glucose concentrations become higher, the glow becomes brighter. Think of a traffic cop. Glowing yellow to regulate is how he rolls. Some even dance Рlike  this one in New York City.

The leader of this award-winning research project, Erica Shannon, said this could become a new, less costly processes to help people with diabetes monitor their blood-sugar levels. It would require replacing the fluorescent gene with one that would cause the bacteria to change color based on glucose levels. Bacteria-based test strips would also be less expensive to make than current chemical-based test strips, Shannon says.

Shannon is two-steps ahead of the game. She is already thinking of ways to apply this system for potential uses in diabetes treatments. She says,”based on further research, an insulin gene could be added to this system for use in insulin pumps, where specific glucose levels trigger insulin production”.

Medtronic? Omnipod? Animas? Pay attention – this girl is on to something. Her name is Erica Shannon. She clearly knows where it’s at and took a cue from the most prolific development in the diabetes industry since the discovery of insulin – genetically engineered insulin courtesy of bacteria!

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