Magazine article USA TODAY

Space-Grown Insulin Crystals Aid Research

Magazine article USA TODAY

Space-Grown Insulin Crystals Aid Research

Article excerpt

Diabetic patients someday may reduce their insulin injections and lead more normal lives because of insights gained through innovative research in which the largest insulin crystals ever studied were grown on the Space Shuttle. Results from a 1994 insulin crystal growth experiment in space are leading to a greater understanding of diabetes. This has the potential to reduce medical expenses significantly, since treatment of diabetes accounts for one-seventh of the nation's health care costs. Sixteen million Americans suffer from hormone deficiency conditions such as diabetes, hepatic failure, hemophilia, and Parkinson and Huntington diseases.

"The space-grown insulin crystals have provided us new, never-before-seen information," indicates G. David Smith, a scientist at Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, Buffalo, N.Y. "As a result, we now have a much more detailed picture of insulin."

Because of the increase in crystal size, Smith's team is able to study in more detail the delicate balance of the insulin molecule. Natural insulin molecules hold together and gradually release into the human body. Thanks to some of the new--and unexpected--findings, researchers may be able to improve how insulin is released from its inactive stored state to an active one. …

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