Pump in a plaster

A plaster that contains a tiny pump and can be worn on the skin could soon improve the quality of life for insulin-dependant diabetics or those on fertility treatments.

The technology, which has received £120,000 from NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) is being developed by Swansea-based Starbridge Systems.

They believe their product has huge potential for diabetes care. This next generation micro-pump enables patients to carry and receive a three-day supply of insulin inconspicuously on any part of their body.

“It will release diabetics from the need to use syringes and needles, enabling them to continuously infuse insulin. They’ll be able to lead a normal life,” said Joseph Cefai, chief executive of Starbridge Systems.

The new NESTA award will enable the company to develop a prototype of the device, which they hope could be helping diabetics within the next five years. The illness ranks as the fourth most expensive in the UK. In Wales alone, the NHS bill for dealing with issues around diabetes was £255 million in 1999.

Current insulin pumps are worn like a pager on a belt, delivering insulin through a catheter into the skin. But they are bulky and the tubing can prove cumbersome, or even get blocked.

“Not only will the pump be small, cheap and effective, it will also be simple to use,” added Cefai. “This will be particularly beneficial to people who have developed diabetes in later years – those who are old or have poor sight or mobility.

“And because the pump will allow them to accurately control their insulin doses, they will be able to get back to normal life, eating, sleeping and exercising as they wish.”

On the web