Promising new treatment options for diabetes are on the horizon, thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Tufts University. By engineering cells that produce increased levels of insulin when exposed to light, the team is on the verge of delivering a new ‘genre of treatments’ for diabetes.

The ‘light-switchable cells’ proved themselves in tests on diabetic mice. When placed under their skin and ‘subjected to illumination with blue light’ the cells triggered an increased tolerance and regulation of glucose.

“It’s a backwards analogy, but we are actually using light to turn on and off a biological switch,” explained Emmanuel Tzanakakis, professor of chemical and biological engineering at the School of Engineering at Tufts University. “In this way, we can help in a diabetic context to better control and maintain appropriate levels of glucose without pharmacological intervention.”