Revolutionary artificial pancreas to ease diabetes management load for seniors

May 24, 2023
Researchers are developing a personalised artificial pancreas to eliminate the need for painful insulin injections. Source: Getty

Painful insulin injections may soon be a thing of the past as researchers are currently developing a new type of artificial pancreas that can be personalised according to each patient’s specific needs.

The revolutionary diabetes management system uses computer simulators and algorithms to control implanted insulin pumps to mimic your body’s natural physiological insulin delivery.

“Not only is intraperitoneal infusion of insulin much more physiological because you are reproducing the natural physiology, but it simplifies the control problem because you don’t have delays,” study author Claudio Cobelli said.

“So, this means you can have a very simple, robust controller to handle the everyday situations.”

In 2020, it was estimated that nearly 1.3 million Australians were living with diabetes, with almost 1 in 5 Australians over the age of 80 living with this chronic condition.

Even though the condition can often be effectively managed, diabetes can cause potential health complications. For example, people with poorly managed diabetes are at an increased risk of tooth decay and gum infections.

Some medications used to treat diabetes can cause dry mouth or taste disturbance. Oral thrush is also more common in people with diabetes as the high glucose levels in your saliva provide a breeding ground for the bacteria that causes thrush. Diabetes can also lead to periodontal, more commonly known as gum disease.

Managing diabetes is no easy feat, as precise insulin calculations are needed, with many patients needing multiple shots a day to control their fluctuating sugar levels.

Currently, the standard insulin delivery method requires patients to use injections with small needles which may be painful if not injected properly. If the person using the insulin injection is also unaware of the proper injection site, they may also cause the patient’s body to absorb the insulin too fast.

While there are automated insulin delivery systems available, these devices require patients to manually input information about their meals before they eat and are often slow to sense when to release insulin which may result in inaccurate insulin delivery and potentially increase the chances of hyperinsulinemia.

As a way to prevent these challenges from happening, Cobelli and her team have developed a model that takes into account the specific needs of individual patients and removes the need for meal inputs.

“This is a big plus. It helps with tuning the devices and allows personalisation,” Cobelli said.

“Different people have different needs, so you need to personalise the algorithms.”

While researchers continue clinical trials to develop this new bionic pancreas, older Australians can manage the condition with the use of blood sugar tests, supplements, foot care and prevention socks and blood glucose meters.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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