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How Can an Artificial Pancreas Help Fight Diabetes?

child pricking finger
(Image: Getty Images)

Diabetes is in the top 10 causes of death globally. One of the key objectives of the science industry is to raise the quality of life for our human family, including diabetic individuals. We’ve seen a lot of work on glucose management over the years, but a brand new invention is now making headlines. How can an artificial pancreas help fight diabetes?

Diabetes is an autoimmune response that ultimately prevents a person’s pancreas from producing insulin, a hormone needed for storing sugar in our cells for daily use. 34 Million people in the United States are diagnosed with some form of diabetes. Of those individuals, 95% of them are diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes - where diet, environmental factors, and other health variables can impact an individuals’ insulin response and autoimmune profile. The other kind, Type 1 Diabetes, is also known as juvenile diabetes and is a genetic autoimmune disease - currently impacting 200,000 Americans aged 20 or younger. 

While physicians have been experimenting with diabetes treatments for over 3,000 years, it’s only in the past few decades that scientific breakthroughs have allowed for much more control in glucose management- from daily insulin shots to insulin release medical patches. Now the most recent technology in diabetes management is an artificial pancreas

This computerized artificial pancreas is worn on the outside of the body and tracks blood sugar levels all day long and is able to inject insulin as needed. Partially automated versions have been out for a few years, which interface with smartphone apps to help patients and their doctors understand how controlled their diabetes is. But those required users to input information about food they ate and other information. The breakthrough came earlier this year with a fully automated system that senses glucose readings and pumps insulin with a smart control algorithm. The design approved by the FDA earlier this year was developed right here in Virginia at UVA.

The artificial pancreas is especially good news for diabetes management in children. Recently, a team of scientists tested this on over a hundred children between the ages of 6 and 13. Participants reported a slight improvement in keeping a good blood glucose level in the day times, but they had a drastic improvement during the nighttime hours. Patients seeing a 26% improvement in blood glucose levels at night is also a great sign for parents and caregivers who often spend stressed nights over their child’s health.  

Timely insulin delivery is incredibly important when trying to keep a small child functional and healthy without blood sugar imbalance issues….and could help prevent further health issues later in life. As the work for curing diabetes altogether continues, inventions like this artificial pancreas are major steps in improving current patients’ quality of life. This is all very helpful because inventions like this artificial pancreas will give people one less thing to worry about and in a year as wild as 2020 that goes a long way!