Experts at the Mayo Clinic are developing an artificial pancreas capable of delivering insulin into a person's body while eliminating the prospect of injections each day. This is a revolutionary new way of managing diabetes employing an insulin delivery algorithm for monitoring blood glucose levels in real time. Precise computations of blood sugar are important because in Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or sometimes no insulin. 1)
Mayo has a dual track research effort. Scientists are using adult stem cells to regenerate insulin-producing cells in Type 1 diabetes patients. This adult stem cell research is being conducted alongside the research on the artificial pancreas.
The artificial pancreas uses a dual abdominal patch very similar to the patches used during an EKG test. The patch measures blood sugar in real time. A mini- pump delivers insulin under the skin. (subcutaneously) Mayo's new innovation is the sophisticated insulin delivery algorithm which links the patch and mini-pump in real time. 2)
An insulin delivery algorithm uses past glucose monitoring, the predicted glucose monitoring of the upcoming period and a predicted blood glucose monitoring over the next 4-6 hours based upon a system mean model and the expected meals to be consumed later in the day. Once the expected meals are known and input into the system, then the amount of insulin can be infused iteratively into the body to normalize the blood sugar levels based upon an insulin delivery algorithm.
Any differences in the way a person consumes food can be accounted for by an enforced exercise program. Such a program facilitates normalizing the blood glucose level through automated insulin infusions combined with exercise to bring the body into a blood glucose balance. This is true because researchers have found an important relationship between body insulin levels, physical exercise and the individual patient metabolic response.
Physical trainers have an intuitive knowledge of this phenomena from extensive experience in training athletes and integrating elite training with planned meals and ideal combinations of protein, carbohydrates and good fats. Trainers intuitively replace sugar consumption with protein to overcome the glucose accumulation issues strictly by diet and portion control. In addition, there are natural substitutes for white sugar; such as, stevia, cinnamon, anise and other products.
Jan Stegemann developed an artificial pancreas comprising one or more physiologically active pancreatic islet cells capable of producing insulin and encapsulated with a semipermeable membrane made of agar gel. Agar gels by a thermal process as opposed to the ionic one in alginate beads. This difference imparts chemical stability to agar beads in that they do not dissolve in certain ionic solutions according to Stegemann. 3)
Diabetic research is on a new frontier. The discipline is moving from a purely pharmaceutical approach to a system utilizing patches, central processing units, insulin delivery algorithms and stem cells. In addition, diet, exercise and meal timing are important determinants in the equation to normalize blood sugar in the most difficult medical cases which have not responded well in the past.