Can You Imagine Saying ‘I Haven’t Had a Hypo for Years’?

If you have diabetes or know someone who does take a minute to imagine what that statement would mean; being able to say that hypos are a thing of the past and something that you remember from years ago. Whilst visiting the company MSD’ s stand at the European Summit for Chronic Diseases, I found out that MSD were working on ‘smart insulin’. I learnt that this new innovation could make diabetes a hypo free possibility and in only a few years time.

Having come close to having a hypo myself that morning at the event, but having avoided it by eating a mid-morning snack- hypo awareness was on my mind all day. I knew MSD were a very forward thinking pharmaceutical company because they’d produced this innovative hypo simulator to present what the experience can be like for someone who has diabetes. Due to the subject of the simulator being diabetes related, MSD had enlisted the help of their diabetes advisor and endocrinologist Joao Conceicao.  Speaking to him about why MSD felt it was so important to have a presence at the event and one that allowed them to support diabetes, I took the opportunity to ask about the other exciting projects that the company was working on and smart insulin was one of them.

I’ve heard the term smart insulin before but didn’t know great amounts about it, just that scientists were working on improving the way that insulin behaved when used in the treatment for diabetes. But Dr Conceicao explained that the type of smart insulin that MSD is currently working on, have the potential to eradicate hypoglycaemia in people with diabetes. I had noticed earlier on in the day that when Joao was explaining to the many people that visited the stand; the ins and outs of diabetes, that he described a hypo as being a symptom of the treatment for the condition. Which gave me pause for thought.

As long as I can remember having type 1 diabetes myself (13 years) I could always recall having hypos. So my thinking had previously been that hypos were caused by diabetes, but in fact they’re not (as such). Dr Conceicao explained that hypos are a symptom of having to take insulin in replacement of a pancreas that isn’t able to secrete the hormone naturally itself. As a result of which estimation can be involved in terms of how much insulin is needed by your body, opposed to in someone without the condition where their body knows the right amount of insulin to give. That unbalance between insulin requirements is what causes the hypos- too much and you go low and too little means you’re high. So if MSD can produce an insulin that could for example learn to switch itself off when there is not enough sugar in the blood stream and switch back on when sugar is present. Then it could in theory eradicate becoming hypo.

It’s my understanding that MSD and the one or two other companies that are working to create this type of ‘hypo free’ smart insulin, are doing it through molecule technology. Whereby they can create a molecule in the lab that can surround the insulin hormone, that's intuitive enough to know when to switch off and on depending on what blood sugars are doing. This could be a technology that’s available in less than 10 years time and although not a cure, could have a massive impact on people with type 1 diabetes and the risk that having hypoglycaemia poses. I know that being able to be hypo free because of using smart insulin would make a measurable difference in my day-to-day life and my sport. So I had to write this blog to share the positive innovations that are being trialled at the moment and that could be ready in the not too distant future. It might sound like space-age technology but hypo free diabetes could be just a few light years ahead.


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My blog takes you through a daily look at sport, diabetes and everything in between. As an athlete that lives with type 1 diabetes I want to let you into news, views and all that is important to both of my passions.

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