The Illinois Institute of Technology, in collaboration with the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Toronto-based York University, has received a $2.48 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop artificial pancreas systems that can be used during and after exercise.

Exercise is an important component in regulating diabetes and has a substantial impact on improving people's heath and metabolism. However, exercise also increases the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) in patients with diabetes, which is a concern for patients who may consider using an artificial pancreas. Hypoglycemia can impair clear thinking, and if untreated can lead to fainting, diabetic coma and ultimately death.

While the current generation of artificial pancreas systems integrates measurements of glucose from sensors to calculate the right amount of insulin for the patient, they don't take into account the impact that exercise can have on diabetic patients.

"This is important because to date there have been very few studies that considered how an artificial pancreas functions in an environment of exercise," said Ali Cinar, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Director of the Engineering Center for Diabetes Research and Education at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Cinar, who serves as the principal investigator for the NIH-funded research team, says the five-year study will develop a multivariable control and hypoglycemia early warning system for artificial pancreases that are safe to use during and after various types of exercise and group sports for patients with diabetes. The study will specifically examine those sports that have varying levels of intensity with short bursts of high-intensity effort and stress.

"Resistance and aerobic exercises, their durations and intensities affect the metabolism and glucose levels in different ways. Based on the outcome of this study, it is our expectation that this will help influence the next generation of artificial pancreas systems that will automatically and continuously adjust insulin infusion rates to keep glucose concentrations within range while mitigating the risk of hypoglycemia even during exercise," Cinar said.

In order to assess this, the project will recruit about 220 patients with type 1 diabetes patients who are current users of insulin pumps in Chicago and Toronto. The study participants will perform various aerobic and resistance exercises, as well as group sports. They will provide data that enables comparison between glucose concentration changes with the participants' routine insulin usage and with the artificial pancreas system developed by the research team.

More information about this study can be found here