Scientists are working to create an artificial pancreas that will help reduce the complications of type 1 diabetes and significantly improve the lives and life expectancy of millions of patients with the condition.
Product development firm Cambridge Consultants recently announced that it is teaming up with the Institute of Metabolic Science (IMS) at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, UK, on this groundbreaking research.
The U.S. ranked 6th highest in the world for the rate of kids aged 14 and under diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, according to research from the International Diabetes Federation.
The risk of diabetes patients dropping into dangerously low blood sugar levels while sleeping is especially concerning.
An application is being created by Cambridge Consultants that will enable a continuous glucose meter (CGM) to autonomously convey messages to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth and then link to an insulin pump.
This will allow patients with type 1 diabetes to wear an artificial pancreas at home without being supervised by a nurse.
Every 1 to 5 minutes, the CGM will monitor the patient’s glucose levels. That information will then be transmitted to a connected smartphone or tablet that will measure the amount of insulin needed to keep the person’s glucose at a steady level at all times.
The appropriate dosage will then be automatically given to the patient through a pump worn under the patient’s clothes.
Although experts have previously tested a nurse-assisted system in a hospital setting and a home use of the system has already been established, the application now being created provides Dr. Hovorka, research leader, with the tools necessary to test his novel algorithm in a home environment over a longer time period.
Dr. Hovorka, director of research at the University of Cambridge Metabolic Research Laboratories, which are part of the IMS, said:
“Researchers in my field have been working on a number of different algorithms for an artificial pancreas but, with the help of Cambridge Consultants, I hope to create a system that is convenient to use and can be remotely monitored.”
The next step in making the system more extensively available is to try out the system in a natural setting over a longer time period.
“To do this, it must work completely autonomously. Combining my background in mathematical modeling and developing control algorithms, and Cambridge Consultants’ extensive experience in medical technology and connected devices, we hope to make a huge breakthrough in the day-to-day control of this incurable condition,” he explained.
“There is a pressing need for improved treatments for people with type 1 diabetes and we are proud to be funding Dr. Hovorka’s important research trials, including the recent trial of the system in children at home,” said Aaron Kowalski, vice-president of treatment therapies at the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF.
An artificial pancreas can reduce the risk of complications such as:
- kidney disease
However, it could also ease the burden of the disorder that patients with type 1 diabetes and their families have to bear each day.
“We see the damage caused by hyperglycemia and low blood glucose levels on a day-to-day basis, and artificial pancreas systems can’t come soon enough, “Kowalski added.
Dr Alasdair Rankin, director of research for Diabetes UK, said:
“Research into an artificial pancreas is at the cutting edge of diabetes research and has enormous potential to improve both the quality of life and also the health outcomes for people with type 1 diabetes.
Managing blood glucose can be really difficult, and barely a quarter of people with type 1 diabetes are reaching the recommended levels. High blood glucose levels increase the risk of developing devastating health complications such as amputation and stroke, and this means Dr Hovorka’s work has the potential to make a big impact.”
Later this year, Dr Hovorka’s in-home longer-time trial is scheduled to begin.
2 years on from this piece of research, in July 2015 researchers from the University of California-Santa Barbara created an implantable artificial pancreas that they say could eliminate the use of insulin injections and pumps for people with type 1 diabetes.