Researchers have developed an artificial pancreas system that uses an algorithm on a smartphone to continuously monitor glucose levels of the user and automatically delivers appropriate levels of insulin — a game changer for diabetic patients specailly for Type 1 diabetes.
For people withType 1 diabetes, which is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, life is a perpetual tightrope act. They must carefully monitor the dosage and timing of insulin injections that allow them to teeter on the high wire that is optimum glucose control.
Too little insulin, and their glucose levels rise, leaving them at risk over time for complications such as blindness and kidney failure; too much insulin and hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) results, making them vulnerable to coma or, in extreme circumstances, even death.
Now researchers studying type 1 diabetes believe they have found a way to help patients avoid the tightrope walk altogether.
Developed by researchers at the Harvard University, the artificial pancreas system consists of an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor placed under the user’s skin.
What this “artificial organ” does is actively monitor and regulate the blood-sugar levels of its host. This means people who suffer from Type 1 diabetes will no longer need to manually inject insulin nor prick their fingers to check blood sugar levels.
All of the data generated by the artificial pancreas is sent back to a reconfigured smartphone which runs algorithms to process the data. This smartphone then sends the information to a blood-sugar monitor and insulin pump worn by the person suffering from Type 1 diabetes.
Moreover, all information is also broadcasted to a remote monitoring site, where the data is collected on behalf of the patient.
An advanced control algorithm embedded in a bluetooth-connected smartphone signals how much insulin the pump should deliver to the patient based on a range of variables including meals consumed, physical activity, sleep, stress and metabolism.
As per the study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, the researchers analysed the use of the novel artificial pancreas system for more than 60,000 hours on participants in a 12-week, multi-site clinical trial.
The results showed a significant decrease in haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) and reduced time spent in hypoglycemia.
A wrong dose can lead to hypoglycemia, which can then cause depressed mood, dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, headache, hunger and inability to concentrate.
More serious consequences include coma, disorientation and seizures.
“This is by far the longest duration trial we have conducted, and it is a testament to the robustness of the algorithm that our key performance indices were maintained from our earlier, shorter trials,” said Frank Doyle from the Harvard University.
In addition, the team introduced adaptive components that allowed the algorithm to “learn” from the repeated daily cycles, leading to improvements in basal control as well as meal compensation.
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