top of page

Teabag-like implant invented to manage Diabetes 1

Global Goals & Global Society
Teabag-like implant invented to manage Diabetes 1

Scientists at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH Zurich) have developed a groundbreaking teabag-like implant that can manage type 1 diabetes by harnessing the body's chemical energy. The implant uses glucose fuel cells that are powered by excess glucose in the blood, allowing for an autonomous regulation of insulin and glucose levels.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects millions of people worldwide. The body is unable to produce enough insulin, leading to an external supply of the hormone through insulin pumps or monitors that rely on single-use batteries.

The implant is made of a copper-based nanoparticle anode that splits glucose into gluconic acid and a proton, generating an electric current. The fuel cell is covered in alginate, an algae-derived product widely used in biomedicine because of its high degree of biocompatibility. When implanted under the skin, the cell's alginate soaks up body fluid, allowing glucose to permeate the surface and flow into the power center.

The teabag-like implant is then coupled with an insulin capsule featuring artificial beta cells that can produce and release insulin when triggered by electric current from the implant. The two components work together to provide a self-regulating circuit, where the fuel cell powers up when excess blood sugar is detected, stimulating the beta cells to produce and secrete insulin. When blood sugar levels dip, the fuel cell powers down, stopping insulin production and release.

It gives new hope for type 1 diabetes patients, providing an eco-friendly and renewable resource that can be used to power biomedical devices. It also promotes the SDGs by harnessing the body's excess metabolic energy to produce electricity, reducing reliance on single-use batteries and promoting sustainable practices.

While the implant has been successfully tested in mice models, the researchers hope to develop it from prototype to market stage. The study was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

The vision of a global society is one where people and the planet can thrive sustainably. The development of glucose fuel cells for diabetes management represents a significant step towards this vision. By reducing reliance on external power sources and enabling remote monitoring, this technology could make diabetes management more sustainable and accessible, aligning with the SDGs of Good Health and Well-being and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Furthermore, this innovation shows how scientific research and innovation can contribute to the vision of a global society that is equitable and focused on achieving the SDGs.

The development of glucose fuel cells that can be implanted beneath the skin and powered by excess glucose in the blood is a significant breakthrough in the management of type 1 diabetes. This innovation could potentially reduce the reliance on external power supplies such as single-use batteries for insulin pumps and monitors, making diabetes management more sustainable. Additionally, this technology aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being, and Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. The self-regulating circuit created by the fuel cell and beta cells could potentially enable remote monitoring and access for medical intervention, bringing us closer to achieving universal healthcare, another SDG. Overall, this development is a remarkable example of how scientific research and innovation can contribute to the vision of a global society that is sustainable, equitable, and focused on achieving the SDGs.


bottom of page