JAN 18, 2023 10:00 AM PST

Artificial pancreas for type 2 diabetes management

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Type 2 diabetes is an increasingly common condition around the globe, affecting over 400 million people. In type 2 diabetes, people experience an inadequate production of insulin, which is a vital molecule used to keep blood glucose (sugar) levels in check. If left too high for too long, excess amounts of glucose can lead to tissue damage, including damage to the eyes or kidneys.

Currently, the standard of care approach for diabetes involves regular insulin injections to help the body keep glucose under control.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a new way to manage type 2 diabetes, which has so far shown promising results: an artificial pancreas, which could reduce the need for regular insulin injections. The artificial pancreas and the results of an initial study are described in a recent article published in Nature Medicine.

The artificial pancreas includes two key components: a glucose monitor that is widely available for purchase over the counter and (2) an app called CamAPS HX, which was developed by the research team at the University of Cambridge. The app is powered by an algorithm that is able to use prior data to make predictions about how much insulin a person needs to achieve optimal glucose levels. The app has been used in the past to study its use for people with type 1 diabetes. Researchers have also programmed the algorithm specifically for people with type 2 diabetes experiencing a need for kidney dialysis.

In the current study, researchers focused on people with type 2 diabetes who did no need kidney dialysis. Researchers included 26 people with type 2 diabetes and assigned them to one of two groups: wear the artificial pancreas for right weeks and then switch to taking regular, daily insulin injections, or vice versa. This approach allowed researchers to compare the artificial pancreas to the existing standard of care.

The device was also able to function automatically; that is, it could operate without needing certain input from its wearer. For example, previous versions of the device used for people with Type 1 diabetes needed to let the device know they were about to eat. The device described in Nature Medicine did not require this type of input.

Overall, the artificial pancreas was able to (1) boost how long people remained at an optimal glucose level and (2) significantly reduced how frequently people experienced higher glucose levels. For example, when using the artificial pancreas, participants achieved optimal glucose levels about two thirds of the time (compared to about a third of the time while on standard of care).

Sources: Science Daily; Nature Medicine

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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