Insulin is a life-saving drug for people who have diabetes and it can get very expensive for people to get their hands on it. The goal for the biohackers is to produce the insulin and provide it to those who need it for free or for a significantly lower cost compared to what it is now.
What is Insulin
Insulin is what enables cells within the body to use glucose circulating in the blood as energy. People who have Type 1 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin, while those with Type 2 diabetics have become resistant to it. They often experience high blood sugar or hyperglycemia which can cause heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, and kidney disease.
In extreme cases of insulin insufficiency, ketoacidosis can occur. This is where the liver starts to release too many ketones into the blood which can turn the blood acidic and result in death.
The Struggle for People with Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease that has become the most expensive in the United States. The health care costs for diabetes has reached $327 billion a year and $15 billion comes from the cost of insulin.
The cost has continued to climb and tripled in price from 2002 to 2013. The cost doubled once more between 2012 and 2016. A vial of Humalog which was the standard insulin that was produced by Eli Lilly cost only $21 in 1996. Today, it goes from $324 and without insurance, it can cost thousands of dollars each month.
Scientists have begun to make insulin on their own by inserting a gene that codes for insulin proteins into yeast or bacteria. Mini-biofactories form which release the protein and it can then be harvested, purified and bottled.