One of the major reasons why the artificial pancreas remains a possibility rather than a reality is because it’s hard to create a closed-loop system that can account for all the variabilities of day-to-day life. Developers have been trying to figure out algorithms that factor in the body’s reaction to hard-to-quantify stimuli like carbohydrate counts of meals and the strenuousness of exercise. And if a pump system can’t factor in such things, it falls short of being a closed-loop artificial pancreas.
Researchers are launching a major new study to try to solve least one missing part of this equation. The Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois, the University of Illinois Chicago, and York University (Canada) announced they have received a $2.48 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop artificial pancreas systems that can handle the variability of exercise without additional input from people with diabetes. The goal of the 5-year study is to develop an artificial pancreas that has a built-in early warning system for hypoglycemia brought on by physical exertion. The team of researchers have been working on AP systems that can use algorithms and physiological data to “learn” to predict upward or downward trends of BG levels in response to stimuli.
To begin the project, researchers will recruit some 220 T1 pump users in the metro areas of Chicago and Toronto to sweat it out for research. The recruited volunteers will perform aerobic exercises, resistance exercises, and participate in group sports. Their physiological readings will be closely monitored to provide data to feed into the development of a future artificial pancreas, says Dr. Ali Cinar, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Director of the Engineering Center for Diabetes Research and Education at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
“Based on the outcome of this study, it is our expectation that this will help influence the next generation of artificial pancreas systems that will automatically and continuously adjust insulin infusion rates to keep glucose concentrations within range while mitigating the risk of hypoglycemia even during exercise,” Dr. Cinar says in a statement.
Exercise has been something of a double-edged sword for people with diabetes. While it can help ward off the long-term complications of diabetes, it also can lead to hypoglycemia, which comes with its own (sometimes deadly) complications. The body responds to exercise by absorbing blood glucose more efficiently than when resting. A PWD’s insulin regimen is usually based on normal exertion levels, and this physiological response can throw everything off.
To compensate, people with diabetes must make complex adjustments to insulin therapy based on guesstimates for exertion levels, the previous meal, and time of day of the exercise. Thus, the diabetes community has been waiting for an artificial pancreas system that takes the guesswork out of exercise so that those with diabetes can…just do it.
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