Nearly 3 million Americans have type 1 diabetes. More than 15,000 children and 15,000 adults are diagnosed each year in the U.S. A significant concern for those living with this disease is slipping into dangerously low blood sugar levels, particularly in their sleep. One of the “holy grails” of diabetes research is development of an artificial pancreas that can supplement normal insulin-producing function of the organ and help regulate blood sugar levels in these patients. We have reported previously on such efforts.
Product development firm Cambridge Consultants (Cambridge, MA) recently announced that it is working with the Institute of Metabolic Science (IMS) at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, UK on groundbreaking research to create an artificial pancreas. As you can see from the diagram, the continuous glucose meter (CGM) will monitor the patient’s glucose levels and pass on the information to a connected smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, that in turn will calculate the amount of insulin the patient needs to keep their glucose at a steady level 24/7. The recommended dosage will then be automatically delivered to the patient when the insulin pump receives instructions from the smartphone/tablet.
In a recent press release, Dr. Roman Hovorka, director of research at the University of Cambridge Metabolic Research Laboratories, which are part of the IMS, commented on the progress of the research:
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…My previous trials were nurse-supervised in a hospital setting and also included unsupervised home use of the system. Trialling the system in a natural setting over a longer time period is the next stage in making the system widely available. To do this, it must work completely autonomously. Combining my background in mathematical modelling 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.
Such a system could dramatically improve the lives of type I diabetes patients threatened by complications of poor glucose control, including amputation, stroke, and even death.