News Release

Electrogenetic device offers on-demand release of cellular insulin

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Advancing the use of electrogenetics for remote-controlled medical intervention, researchers report a new device, tested in mouse models of type-1 diabetes, wirelessly coaxed bioengineered cells to release insulin, stabilizing the animals' blood glucose levels within minutes. The approach, which uses external electric fields to trigger on-demand insulin release, opens the door for precisely controlled diabetes therapies. Similar to optogenetics, which uses precise wavelengths of light as a means to control cell function remotely, electrogenetics uses electrical stimulation to directly influence the expression of voltage-dependent receptors in electrosensitive designer cells. Current remote-controlled electrogenetic medical devices make use of sophisticated bioelectronic interfaces that use direct electronic input to control cellular behavior but require electrical conduction between device electrodes and bioengineered cells, limiting their potential. Krzysztof Krawczyk and colleagues developed a bioelectronic interface that uses electric fields to control cell function in vivo via a wearable device. Leveraging a voltage-gated calcium channel, Krawczyk et al. achieved a high degree of control over electrostimulation-driven insulin production and secretion in engineered human pancreatic β cells. Using these cells, the authors designed a cofactor-free subcutaneously implantable device that can be wirelessly triggered to release stored insulin rapidly and on-demand. The modified β cells within the device were able to be reused for several weeks and capable of rapidly restoring normal glycemic levels in mice. "Electrogenetics represents the next tool in an expanding toolbox for engineering remote solutions for human therapeutics," write Matthew Brier and Jonathan Dordick in a related Perspective, which discusses this, as well as other approaches, to remote activation of cellular signaling.


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