For people with diabetes who are insulin dependent, glycemic control is a full-time job. Severely low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can lead to delirium, convulsions or loss of consciousness, while chronic high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can lead to blindness, stroke or amputation. Staying in the desired blood glucose range is a delicate balance that insulin-dependent diabetics face every day. Now, a discovery by Michael Weiss, an Indiana University School of Medicine Distinguished Professor, may help. Weiss and his research team have described the potential use of a synthetic “switch” that can be opened or closed using a simple sugar sensor. The concept exploits a natural structural feature called the “protective hinge." With their invention, Weiss says, when blood sugar goes low, the hinge would close. The benefit of the synthetic hinge is that it leverages naturally occurring processes and introduces fewer artificial elements, compared to other approaches. Weiss says his team is currently using fructose – the kind of sugar in many fruits and in high-fructose corn syrup – as a stand-in for glucose, and their next step is changing the sugar sensor from fructose to glucose. While there is still much work to do to translate the researchers’ proof of principle into an FDA-approved product, the work represents the exciting development of an insulin analogue that can sense the level of sugar present in the blood, which could revolutionize insulin therapy.
In other news, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, famous for its 300-meter radio telescope that appeared in the films “Goldeneye” and “Contact,” was damaged in 2020, and the telescope shut down. But thanks to an international group of scientists and researchers, including IUPUI data scientist Angela Murillo, there are still discoveries waiting to be made from the observatory. Murillo is helping to preserve and exchange a treasure trove of astronomical data from Arecibo, where researchers have amassed thousands of hours of observations using its famous telescope. Murillo is working with partners to move the Arecibo radio telescope data to the Texas Advanced Computing Center, which will enable expanded access to over 50 years of astronomy data. Moving and securing such a massive amount of scientific data is not a quick assignment, Murillo says, especially on an island with limited bandwidth. Her long-term work on data archiving and preservation spotlights the key role of data management in scientific discovery, she says, ensuring that important data remains accessible for future astronomers and scientists. The work to continue Arecibo’s legacy, Murillo says, is an example of how researchers and others can come together and collaborate for the greater scientific good.