Could Diabetics Replace Insulin Injections With a Shot of Coffee in the Future?

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People with diabetes could get a new kind of treatment. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to replace insulin injections with a cup of coffee? Well, researchers in Switzerland found a way to keep glucose levels by using caffeine.

Martin Fussenegger is the leader of the team that tested their theory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. He explains that their findings might completely change diabetics’ life, because:

“You could completely integrate this into your lifestyle. You have a tea or coffee in the morning, another after lunch, and another at dinner, depending on how much drug you need to get your glucose back down.”

The Science Behind Coffee and Blood Sugar Levels

How did they get to this conclusion? They tested it on diabetic mice.

Researchers inserted under the skin of mice an implant that is triggered by caffeine in coffee, tea or energy drinks. They created a drug that controlled the blood sugar levels of the animals. If the dose needed to be higher, scientists gave the mice stronger coffee.

Human trials are not going to start before decades of tests and trials prove this is a safe and effective approach. But if it works, the regular injections will be history, says Fussenegger:

“You could have your normal life back. The implant could last for six months to a year before it would need to be replaced.”

The researchers modified human cells to make a drug for diabetes called GLP-1. The drug stimulates the beta cells in the pancreas to produce insulin and control blood sugar levels.

These cells can sense caffeine molecules as they enter the bloodstream. When the cells detect caffeine, they react and create GLP-1. An implant contains thousands of gel capsules, each containing hundreds of the modified cells, explains Fussenegger:

“When you inject them under the skin, they stick together like caviar.”

The gel capsules are shielded from the immune system but allow caffeine molecules to get in and GLP-1 to go out.

The cells were exposed to energy drinks and different levels of caffeine like a chocolate milkshake, herbal tea, cola, black tea, coffee, energy drinks and instant coffee pods. The cells reacted to all of them except for herbal tea and chocolate milkshakes.

Fussenegger knows that this treatment might only work on some people, but he has hope that it could “be quite an improvement in everyday life for these people.”

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere