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My lab over the years has become skilled at bringing biological processes under the control of light.  Several years ago I realized that these skills could be applied to a major biomedical problem:  How to control the delivery of insulin to diabetics without the need for a syringe, a pump, a cannula or indeed any physical connection to the patient.  It seems that it is this physical connection of the outside world to the inside world of the patient that creates many problems.    If we could eliminate or severely reduce this physical connection, it could transform the lives of these patients and their health outcomes.  The idea was relatively straightforward: 

We would link insulin to an insoluble polymer via a light-cleaved link.  This final material could be injected just under the skin like insulin, but would be inert, until a light source illuminated the material through the skin, causing the bond between the polymer and the insulin to be broken.  The insulin would then be released into the body just like “normal” insulin.

What would this accomplish?  Multiple things.  First of all, a single injection of this material could contain days, weeks or possibly months of insulin.  This would eliminate the vast majority of injections needed.  Secondly, because the light source could modulate the amount of light (and hence insulin) second by second, we could potentially have a very tight control of blood sugar.  This would result in improved health outcomes.  Finally, all of the problems associated with pumps could be eliminated, because the physical connection of the outside and inside world would be eliminated.

The Whole Idea