Type 1 diabetes affects more than 1.25 million people in the US alone, and more people are being diagnosed every year. Type 1 diabetes in characterized by the body’s inability to produce enough insulin. Insulin, which is produced in the pancreas, is what our bodies use to control the glucose levels in our blood. Type 1 diabetes can be debilitating for people that suffer from it. The typical treatment is regular insulin injections to keep insulin levels constant.
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Researchers at Harvard University and the University of Virginia School of Medicine have developed a new alternative to insulin injections that could change the life of people that have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. They have developed the first “artificial pancreas” that is slated to begin a long-term human trial. The trial will include 240 people and last 6 months. The researchers are interested to see how the artificial pancreas will affect blood sugar levels.
The artificial pancreas is an insulin pump and blood sugar monitor that is implanted just under the skin. The device is then connected to a smartphone running a special app that monitors blood sugar and administers insulin as needed. The device also monitors sleep patterns, stress levels, metabolism, nutrient levels, and general physical activity. This lets the artificial pancreas make increasingly accurate predictions as to when insulin is required. By automating the process, the artificial pancreas will make insulin injections more accurately and efficiently.
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Francis J. Doyle III, the co-principal investigator on the Artificial Pancreas Project, says, “The idea is that this can lead to an improved quality of life for individuals with this disease – not a solution to diabetes, but a means to really extend the quality of their healthful living,” Check out the following video from Harvard University that details the Artifical Pancreas Project, and how scientists think they can change the lives of people suffering from type 1 diabetes.