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Instead of insulin injections, doctors may one day prescribe patients a dose of rock 'n' roll

More than 37 million people in the US have diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, 8.4 million Americans needed to take insulin in 2022 to lower their blood sugar. Insulin, however, is tricky to deliver into the body orally because it is a protein easily destroyed in the stomach.

While researchers are developing pills that resist digestion in the stomach and skin patches that monitor blood sugar and automatically release insulin, the most reliable way currently to take insulin is through frequent injections.

I am a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Indiana University School of Medicine, where my colleagues and I study drug delivery systems. Researching innovative new ways to get medications into the body can improve how well patients respond to and comply with treatments. An easier way to take insulin would be music to the ears of many people with diabetes, especially those who aren’t fans of needles.

In a recent study in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, researchers engineered cells to release insulin in response to specific sound waves: the music of the band Queen. Though it still has a long way to go, this new system may one day replace the insulin injection with a dose of rock ’n’ roll.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that arises when the body fails to make...