Artificial pancreas system to be developed for type 1 diabetics

by Barbara Hewitt on December 20, 2013

A major grant has been awarded to two research universities in North America with the aim of developing an artificial pancreas system for type 1 diabetics.

The $2.5 million grant from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) will fund a collaboration between the Chicago based Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Illinois and University of Chicago and also York University in Toronto.


The aim of the study will be to develop an artificial pancreas system that is as fault free as possible, preventing false warnings or system failures

The teams will work on developing an artificial pancreas system that can respond well to the sharp swings in blood glucose levels that typically affect people with type 1 diabetes during and after exercise.

An artificial pancreas is a system that uses the combination of an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to respond to rises and drops in blood glucose levels by reducing and increasing insulin rates respectively.

Artificial pancreas systems are regarded as the future of diabetes care as they reduce the need for patients to second guess how their blood sugar levels are reacting to food, activity and other factors including stress.

The aim of the new research is to develop a robust set of algorithms that will be able to react to changes in blood glucose levels during and following sport. The research has important implications as it should greatly help insulin pump technology to appropriately react to unpredictable bursts of activity which is a particular feature of children’s behaviour.

Exercise is an important part of diabetes control and, when managed well, can improve blood glucose levels. However, it is not always so easy to correctly manage blood glucose levels during and following sport and hypoglycaemia can be a particular problem, which can occur not only during sport abut also up to two days after exercising.

Another important aim of the study will be to develop an artificial pancreas system that is as fault free as possible, to prevent false warnings or system failures. The research collaboration will involve around 220 patients with type 1 diabetes and insulin pump users. Participants will be selected from Chicago and Toronto.

Meanwhile another NIH grant is being used by researchers in the first definitive, large scale clinical trial to investigate if a vitamin D supplement helps prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in adults who have prediabetes.

The study is taking place at about 20 study sites across the US involving about 2,500 people with prediabetes who have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes.

‘Vitamin D use has risen sharply in the US in the last 15 years, since it has been suggested as a remedy for a variety of conditions, including prevention of type 2 diabetes. But we need rigorous testing to determine if vitamin D will help prevent diabetes. That’s what this study will do,’ said Myrlene Staten, project officer at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK,) part of NIH.

‘Past observational studies have suggested that higher levels of vitamin D may be beneficial in preventing type 2 diabetes, but until this large, randomised and controlled clinical trial is complete, we won’t know if taking vitamin D supplements lowers the risk of diabetes,’ said Anastassios Pittas, the study’s principal investigator at Tufts Medical Center, Boston.

Based on observations from earlier studies, researchers speculate that vitamin D could reduce the diabetes risk by 25 percent. The study will also examine if sex, age or race affect the potential of vitamin D to reduce diabetes risk.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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