A team of doctors, engineers, and data scientists led by Dr. Talha Durrani of Peshawar’s Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) has developed a painless insulin delivery device using transdermal patches.
The device has the potential to replace traditional injections/pens used to inject insulin into the body if mass-produced.
The device’s prototype, according to details, has passed initial bench testing and is undergoing further pilot laboratory tests. The team has already applied for a patent and is collaborating with academics in England.
While the device is still in testing, it has caught the interest of a few international investors.
Diabetes is extremely common in Pakistan, according to a recent independent survey, with one in every five people suffering from the disease. The pain associated with daily insulin injection treatment leads to a lower quality of life and treatment non-compliance, particularly in children.
Prof. Dennis Douroumis from England led the team, along with Dr. Anam Abid, a Mechatronics Engineer who investigated more child-friendly and cost-effective solutions, while Dr. Mian Ayaz ul Haq, a UK-based Consultant Neurologist, served as a mentor to the team, providing oversight and guidance throughout the project.
Prof. Dennis, Professor of Process Engineering and Director of CIPER, University of Greenwich, London, told ProPakistani exclusively: “Our goal is to develop medical devices and dosage forms that are friendly to children and improve medication adherence.”
Only a few patients in the country can afford the less-invasive treatments available in some advanced countries, according to Dr. Anam, Lecturer, Mechatronics Engineering, UET Peshawar. As a result, we have developed an effective treatment that, once mass-produced, will be affordable to the average person.
According to Dr. Talha, the Resident Physician at Khyber Teaching Hospital Peshawar:
Nobody can innovate on their own. It’s a team sport in which field specialists with vastly different experiences work together to solve a single problem. I hope that our work inspires doctors, engineers, business administrators, and investors to gather around a table and brainstorm ideas for such projects.
Specifics of the Project
While the team asked ProPakistani not to reveal the details of the device’s operation because it is still in testing, Dr. Talha was gracious enough to answer a few questions for our readers:
What is the absorption ratio difference between the patch and the injection/pen?
The standard insulin injection is subcutaneous, which means that a needle is used to inject a drug into the tissue layer between the skin and the muscle, whereas the patch is transdermal, which means that the drug is delivered through the skin.
The absorption ratio tested on mice showed virtually no difference in the absorption ratio of the patch and injection, according to published animal literature.
Although human testing has not yet been conducted, if an injection takes approximately one second to deliver the drug and human skin is approximately four times thicker than mouse skin, the time to administer insulin through a patch would not exceed two seconds.
Patches have been around for a long time. What were the technical or medical challenges that kept insulin patches from being used until now?
Certain patch-based medications, such as Scopolamine (anti-nausea) and Fentanyl, are frequently prescribed by doctors (analgesic). The issue with insulin is that it is a much more unstable drug than many others. As a result, it must be delivered by piercing the skin.
The size of the needle now corresponds to the amount of pain it causes. A syringe needle with a capacity of 10 cc is more painful than one with a capacity of 5 cc. A 1 cc needle is less painful than either of these, and a syringe needle smaller than the one in a 1 cc syringe is the least painful.
The problem, from a manufacturing standpoint, is that it is nearly impossible to make an injection needle smaller than the one used in the 1 cc syringe. As a result, experts thought it might be a good idea to use solid microneedles in a patch, which are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye and cause virtually no pain.
This type of patchworks by spraying insulin on it, but the microneedles can only transfer two units per patch. We also imported such patches and tested them numerous times, but they did not work properly.
The breakthrough occurred at the beginning of 2021 when modern machinery assisted in the production of hollow microneedles that do not break and pose no manufacturing challenges, and which have been used in the patch and work efficiently.
In comparison to the traditional insulin/injection setup, how cost-effective will these insulin patches be?
It is difficult to predict the price at this time because we may try more prototype iterations. At this point, the manufacturing of the patch’s applicator system costs roughly Rs. 50, which is very similar to the traditional insulin/injection setup.
The team concluded that the production of such devices represents a positive development in Pakistan’s academic landscape, and they encouraged all stakeholders to work together to bring innovative projects from concept to reality.