Just Doing Experiments? Well, Ones that May Have Life-Saving Potential

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Smart insulin; what is that? It’s the type of insulin that Chandra Bhattacharya, Ph.D., has spent her JDRF-funded postdoctoral fellowship—the time right after you receive your doctoral degree, but are not ready for primetime as an assistant professor, yet—to pursue. And she has a lot of shoes to fill. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), she’s a postdoc in the laboratory of Bob Langer, Sc.D.—a scientist known for educating a generation of researchers and a prolific inventor and patent holder—and Dan Anderson, Ph.D.—himself once a postdoc of Dr. Langer and, today, a professor.

So, let’s get back to the topic. Smart insulin is a form of insulin that turns on when it’s needed to lower blood sugars, and turns off when blood sugars are at safe levels. It’s like a pancreas (well, a healthy one), but in drug-form. Some with type 1 diabetes (T1D) think that this will be a functional cure. Take it once a day, and you’re all set.

But making smart insulin is really hard. There are two proteins (for the most part) that regulate blood sugar: insulin, which makes blood sugar go down, and glucose, which makes blood sugar go up. A very small change in glucose levels, however, is very difficult to measure, so we need a very sensitive and very selective sensor to gauge it. And that’s where Chandra fits in. Find out from her video why making a good smart insulin is both difficult and, possibly in the end, rewarding.

JDRF’s early-career funding enables promising scientists, like Chandra, to focus their talent, ambition and passion on improving life with T1D. Learn more about the researchers we fund, and learn how you can support their work to prevent, treat and—one day—find cures for T1D.