Good news for diabetics! Scientists develop 'artificial pancreas' app to regulate blood sugar

Boston, Agencies | Updated : 29 January 2019, 08:50 AM
Photo for representational purpose only
Photo for representational purpose only

Scientists have developed an 'artificial pancreas' smartphone app, that can interface wirelessly with glucose monitors and insulin pump devices, to regulate blood sugar levels in diabetes patients. A clinical trial showed that the artificial pancreas system (iAPS) app is safe and effective in regulating glucose levels under challenging conditions and is suitable for use in unconstrained environments.

"We designed, developed, and tested the interoperable artificial pancreas system (iAPS) smartphone app that can interface wirelessly with leading continuous glucose monitors (CGM), insulin pump devices, and decision-making algorithms while running on an unlocked smartphone," researchers said. The study, published in the journal Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics, showed that the system can interface wirelessly with leading continuous glucose monitors (CGM), insulin pump devices, and decision-making algorithms.

According to the researchers, including those from Harvard University in the US, the system showed an improved time in the target glucose range (70-180 microgrammes per decilitre and yielded a statistically significant reduction in time below 70 microgrammes per decilitre.

Meanwhile, in another study related to diabetes, researchers have identified cells in the human body that can take over functions of damaged or missing insulin-producing cells, an advance that may lead to new treatments for diabetes.

Diabetes is caused by damaged or non-existing insulin cells' inability to produce insulin, a hormone that is necessary in regulating blood sugar levels. Many diabetes patients take insulin supplements to regulate these levels, said researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway.

They discovered that glucagon producing cells in the pancreas can change identity and adapt so that they do the job for their neighbouring damaged or missing insulin cells. "We are possibly facing the start of a totally new form of treatment for diabetes, where the body can produce its own insulin, with some start-up help," said Luiza Ghila from the University of Bergen.

The researchers discovered that only about two per cent of the neighbouring cells in the pancreas could change identity. However, even that amount makes the researchers optimistic about potential new treatment approaches.

Researchers were able to describe the mechanisms behind the process of cell identity. It turns out that this is not at passive process, but is a result of signals from the surrounding cells.

In the study, researchers were able to increase the number of insulin producing cells to five per cent, by using a drug that influenced the inter-cell signalling process. Thus far, the results have only been shown in animal models, researchers said.

"If we gain more knowledge about the mechanisms behind this cell flexibility, then we could possibly be able to control the process and change more cells' identities so that more insulin can be produced," Ghila said. According to the researchers, the new discoveries is not only good news for diabetes treatment.

"The cells' ability to change identity and function, may be a decisive discovery in treating other diseases caused by cell death, such as Alzheimer's disease and cellular damage due to heart attacks," said Ghila.  

First Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2019 08:46 AM
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