Artificial pancreas: the future is now

Huntsville

(PHOTO: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation)

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Type 1 diabetics: listen up. The future of diabetes management is here. Advocates with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation say the artificial pancreas is on the brink of becoming a commercially available reality for patients.

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 14, I speak from experience when I say, sometimes, viewing an article on the latest 'diabetes breakthrough' can feel a bit, well -- anticlimactic; hurry up and wait. But forget the rumors and the headline hype -- those in-the-know say when it comes to diabetes -- the future is now.

Currently, managing type 1 diabetes is relentless. But what if control could take care of itself -- if most high and low blood sugar events could be prevented? That's the idea behind artificial pancreas systems. They are life changing and here today.

"Yeah we are actually about to go into phase 3 of the artificial pancreas trials, which is huge," says Jenni Jeffers, Development Coordinator for the Alabama Chapter of JDRF.

Jeffers explains since 2005 JDRF has been leading the way in the artificial pancreas project. This breakthrough in blood sugar management isn't actually an organ. It's a system that starts with familiar insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors -- but now, they can talk to each other -- dispensing insulin automatically using realtime data.

"We are not talking 4 or 5 years down the road here for this, there's no question about that, " Jeffers insists. "I think we're really close with the FDA on getting approval for this and I think we will probably see it within the next 18 months."

"Like drinking water from a fire hydrant."

Jim Kaplan has been involved on the Alabama JDRF board for 7 years. He served as an outreach chairman for 6 of those years and has most recently moved into a new role as 'research updater.' This all stemming from his teenage son's type 1 diabetes diagnosis 7 years ago.

"It's like drinking water from a fire hydrant," Kaplan says of the immediate and daunting life adjustments that type 1 families must make. Kaplan remembers the late Friday afternoon when he had to rush his young son to Vanderbilt Hospital -- the day everything changed.

"All the sudden it was like having a child all over again -- you're on the elevator coming home on Monday and they're telling you, 'your child has type 1 diabetes' - and your world changes.

Kaplan says the world is about to change again -- with the artificial pancreas leading the way.

"And until there's a cure, I can't tell you what that's going to do for a type 1 diabetic -- it's an 'aha' moment," Kaplan smiles.

In the midst of third phase human artificial pancreas trials, the FDA is working to overcome remaining safety and availability hurdles with insurance companies and mulling business models with suppliers.

Jim Kaplan says despite the work left to do, there's never been a more exciting time to join the mission of turning type1 into type none.

"Give it to me today," he says. "I'll take my risk knowing that 90% of the time my child is going to be fantastic. I'm not sure that there will be a cure in my lifetime but I know that within his lifetime there will be no more type 1 diabetes," Kaplan ensures.

Get involved

JDRF is the only global organization with a strategic plan to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until it is no longer a threat to anyone.

Your tax-deductible gift will help JDRF create a world without T1D.

"People want to see where those dollars that they're contributing to all the walks, to the rides, to the galas -- they want to see where those dollars are going. 80 cents of every single dollar that is raised goes to research -- that's phenomenal," Kaplan notes.

More about type 1 diabetes

Diabetes (medically known as diabetes mellitus) is the name given to disorders in which the body has trouble regulating its blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels. There are two major types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a disorder of the body’s immune system — that is, its system for protecting itself from viruses, bacteria or any “foreign” substances. Type 1 diabetes diagnosed in adults over 30 may be Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA), sometimes known as Type 1.5 diabetes. LADA is often misdiagnosed as type 2 diabetes because of age; however people with LADA do not have insulin resistance like those with type 2. LADA is characterized by age, a lack of family history of type 2 diabetes, a gradual increase in insulin requirements, positive antibodies, and decreasing ability to make insulin as indicated by a low C-peptide. A fourth and very rare form of diabetes, called monogenic diabetes, is also sometimes mistaken for type 1 diabetes but typically strikes newborns.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys certain cells in the pancreas, an organ about the size of a hand that is located behind the lower part of the stomach. These cells — called beta cells — are contained, along with other types of cells, within small islands of endocrine cells called the pancreatic islets. Beta cells normally produce insulin, a hormone that helps the body move the glucose contained in food into cells throughout the body, which use it for energy. But when the beta cells are destroyed, no insulin can be produced, and the glucose stays in the blood instead, where it can cause serious damage to all the organ systems of the body.

For this reason, people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin in order to stay alive. This means undergoing multiple injections daily, or having insulin delivered through an insulin pump, and testing their blood sugar by pricking their fingers for blood six or more times a day. People with diabetes must also carefully balance their food intake and their exercise to regulate their blood sugar levels, in an attempt to avoid hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) reactions, which can be life threatening.

The warning signs of type 1 diabetes include extreme thirst; frequent urination; drowsiness or lethargy; sugar in urine; sudden vision changes; increased appetite; sudden weight loss; fruity, sweet, or wine-like odor on breath; heavy, labored breathing; stupor; and unconsciousness.

Type 1 diabetes is generally diagnosed in children, teenagers, or young adults. Scientists do not yet know exactly what causes type 1 diabetes, but they believe that autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors are involved. (Source: JDRF)

 

 

 

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