U of T’s 1921 discovery of insulin saved millions of lives. Support our next century of innovation with a gift today.
U of T scientists are working on a skin patch that automatically responds to falling blood sugar. It could be a game-changer for people with diabetes.
For 99.9 per cent of human history, diabetes was a fatal disease. That’s why Frederick Banting and Charles Best’s discovery of insulin, in 1921 at the University of Toronto, was absolutely revolutionary.
For U of T scientists, it was also incredibly inspiring. And a group of young diabetes researchers now hope to make a bold new step forward.
Pharmacy professor Shirley Wu, post-doctoral researcher Amin GhavamiNejad and PhD student Brian Lu are tackling a dangerous problem that people with diabetes still face: episodes of hypoglycemia. Once symptoms begin, ranging from shaking and confusion to seizures or even comas, patients can quickly become unable to get help or administer their emergency treatments.
Enter the team’s painless microneedle patch, the only one of its kind that both checks on blood sugar levels… and responds.
The patch is made of 100 miniature needles, each containing both the pancreatic hormone glucagon, and a microgel. When blood sugar levels are normal, the microgel creates a block that keeps the glucagon within the patch. But when blood sugar levels fall, the block breaks and the glucagon is released into the bloodstream.
The microgel system is a bio-engineering feat, given that glucagon is highly unstable. The team is excited to move forward with its safety and viability tests, followed in a few years by clinical trials.
This innovation is just one example of the U of T ingenuity that rippled outward from the inspiring discovery of insulin. Thank you for your gift to support the University’s Banting and Best Diabetes Centre—and innovations that save lives today and in the future.
A heart attack causes permanent tissue injury. But U of T scientists could change that with a new material that teaches heart cells to repair themselves.
Heart health innovation at the University of Toronto reaches back decades. In 1935, Charles Best first purified the anticoagulant heparin, opening the door to heart surgeries. In 1961, James Till and Ernest McCulloch discovered stem cells and in 2013, Milica Radisic successfully turned them into mature cardiac cells.
Now, building on their predecessors’ work, biomedical engineering professor Paul Santerre and a team of young researchers are creating a way to teach damaged heart cells to self-repair.
When someone has a heart attack, the heart’s tissues are starved of oxygen. Even after life-saving treatments such as stents or bypass surgery, the heart remains permanently injured.
Santerre’s team set out to change that. First, they looked at injecting stem cells into the heart. But the method failed because the teacher cells need to be in alignment. Aligned cells are key to the heart’s ability to send electrical pulses… to beat.
The team decided to create a scaffold— a novel polymer material that can apply a grid of aligned cardiac stem cells to heart muscle, then safely break down and disappear. Their next step: testing the scaffold to see if it can hold its shape long enough for a successful repair.
This innovation is just one example of U of T ingenuity in tackling our world’s major health issues. Thank you for your gift to support the University's Division of Cardiology—and innovations that save lives today and in the future.
U of T engineers are inventing a copper-permeated fabric to fight future pandemics. They could pathogen-proof surfaces from masks to subway seats.
Thousands of years ago, Babylonian soldiers reduced infection by placing fragments of copper-infused metal in wounds—and discovered the metal’s excellent anti-microbial properties. Today, a U of T team is inventing a way to harness the copper effect for our pandemic-beset world.
Their work could pathogen-proof anything from fabric masks to office furniture—a potent weapon against community transmission.
Professors from engineering to biology to public health assembled to work on the project under the leadership of Professor Javad Mostaghimi. The team also tapped a dozen young researchers and graduate students.
At the University’s Centre for Advanced Coating Technologies, they began with some tests. In one study, COVID-19 particles inactivated within four hours when exposed to a copper-coated surface at room temperature.
Traditionally, implementing copper coatings required expensive powdered copper. “But,” says Mostaghimi, “our research has developed a more economically viable method.”
The team’s novel technology converts affordable copper wire into a tightly controlled spray of very fine particles. Applying the spray to reusable face mask fabric, the researchers can create effective protection that can also kill most viral and other pathogens within a few minutes. The treated masks should cost just slightly more than N95 surgical face masks.
This innovation is just one example of U of T ingenuity in meeting current health emergencies, not to mention creating technologies that will ripple outward into the wider world. Thank you for your gift to support research areas in greatest need—and innovations that save lives today and in the future.
The University of Toronto is globally renowned for the breadth of its research. Whatever area is dearest to you, we are likely to be working to advance the field. Or perhaps your gift to student aid will help a future Banting or Best become the next medical groundbreaker.
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