Researchers from all around the country seem to be determined to significantly reduce the life-altering effects which diabetes has on almost 30 million Americans or even prevent it altogether. While University of North Carolina researchers have developed an artificial pancreas which monitors insulin levels in patients and releases the substance when necessary, another government funded research studies the possibility of insulin pills preventing the development of the disease altogether.
The artificial pancreas was designed for patients with Type 1 diabetes, in which the natural human pancreas deteriorates to the point where it can’t produce the amount of insulin necessary to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Controlling blood sugar levels in Type 1 patients is difficult as it requires daily monitoring and significantly disrupts day-to-day activities.
Researchers propose a device which monitors blood sugar levels and automatically injects him with hyaluronic acid (HA) through patched micro-needles. The HA has a double role: it protects insulin stored in the device, and it is also used to probe blood sugar levels. When HA detects them to flow too high, the device is prompted to release stored insulin to contain them Not looking anything like a real pancreas and more similar to an MP3 player, the so-called artificial pancreas would be significantly more convenient for Type 1 diabetes sufferers than current methods.
Until now, the device has only been tried out on diabetic mice, but researchers say that results are encouraging, with the device successfully controlling blood sugar levels about 80 percent of the time. Future tests results could result in patching the device to lower the failure rate to non-threatening rates.
In unrelated research, a government-sponsored project which brought together researchers from all around the country is testing the viability of insulin pills as a prevention mechanism for diabetes. Over 400 individuals – both children and adults – who present genes which grant them an increased risk of developing multiple diabetes types are currently testing the product.
Previously unrelated research regarding insulin pill treatment has noted that, at least in children, it causes changes in the immune system which might help prevent diabetes. However, there is no way to know whether this is the case, as the research’s scope and timeframe were too small to relevantly gather results, while Type 1 diabetes factors are still largely unknown.
Nearly 30 million Americans are afflicted with diabetes, out of which 1.25 million suffer from the severe Type 1 form. Type 1 cases have been increasing at an alarming rate, with over 3 percent more cases being reported worldwide yearly.
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