A team of scientists, including two from the city, have managed to develop a “thermostable” variety of insulin, which eliminates the need to keep it refrigerated. The development is being seen as a breakthrough in scientific circles because, for years now, portability has been the biggest hurdle for insulin-dependent diabetics.
The research has been led by two scientists of the Bose Institute and the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB) in the city and two others from the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad.
“You will be able to keep it outside the fridge for as long as you want, something that will help diabetics across the world, because carrying insulin along with them was considered very impractical,” said Subhrangsu Chatterjee, a faculty member at Bose Institute. “Though for the moment we are calling it ‘insu-lock’, we are in the process of appealing to the DST (Department of Science and Technology) to name it after Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose,” he added.
The research has been lauded by iScience, a science journal of international repute. Chatterjee and Partha Chakrabarti, a faculty member at IICB, along with IICT’s B Jagadeesh and J Reddy, were able to introduce a matrix of four amino acid peptide molecules inside insulin molecules, which prevented solidification of the insulin molecules even when not refrigerated. While insulin has to be now kept at an ideal temperature of 4 °C, this new variety would be able to withstand a temperature of up to 65 °C, the researchers claim. The four-year-long research into the structural design of insu-lock was funded jointly by DST and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
“While the urban rich diabetic patient can still manage to negotiate his life around the fragile nature of insulin, can you imagine the plight of the vast rural and underprivileged population who have no recourse to refrigeration?” Chatterjee said, explaining that degeneration of insulin kept outside refrigeration started six hours later. After 12 hours of staying in normal room temperature, it reaches a stage where it becomes unfit for use. “That is why it is so expensive. We are hopeful that DST and CSIR will now help us go for corporate tie-ups for mass production,” he told TOI.
According to rough estimates available to the scientists, around eight crore people in the country are affected by diabetes. In Kolkata, about 13% of the population is diabetic, half of whom are dependent on insulin injections.
Source: Times of India