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Type 1 diabetes: How does technology help manage it?

Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which people need to do several things on a daily basis injections to keep their blood sugar at the right level. Insulin injection is not a pleasant process, but it depends on the lives of patients with type 1 diabetes. This raises the question of whether technology can provide a solution, freeing patients from the pain and stress it causes. Type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes do not produce a hormone called insulin, which allows blood glucose to enter the cells, thus giving the body energy. Instead of using the insulin produced by their pancreas, people with type 1 diabetes receive their insulin by injection. In addition to needle pain, injections can cause skin irritation, and over time, the blood may shrink or thicken. If a person with type 1 diabetes runs out of insulin for a long time or takes the wrong dose, they are more likely to end up seeing their blood sugar drop dramatically, so they need to be treated.

Zhen Gu, a professor in his industrial department UCLA, pointed out that in people who use insulin, the treatment is done by subcutaneous injection. This is an injection that is given daily, and can be quite painful and uncomfortable. Gu and his team are working on a wearable patch that can pass insulin through the skin. The patch consists of a series of microneedles that carry insulin. The microneedles, just 800 microns long, consist of a polymer matrix of an enzyme called phenylboronic acid (PBA). They sit just below the upper layer of the skin and react to changes in blood sugar. When the patch carrier begins to receive high blood sugar levels, a reaction takes place that alters the electrical charge of the PBA molecules, causing the needles to swell and release insulin into the skin. Once glucose drops to normal levels, the needles stop releasing insulin. The patch will be about two and a half inches in size, and will be replaced either daily or two to three times a day, depending on how often the user normally injects insulin. It is a painless system that can improve the quality of life of these people.

Other research is also looking at the potential of microvelons to carry insulin. Specifically, the MIT and pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk have developed an insulin pill. Normally, insulin cannot be taken as a tablet, as it will be broken down by the extremely acidic environment of the stomach and therefore cannot be transported in the blood. In the MIT system, as soon as the pill reaches the small intestine, the outer shell breaks and the soluble microvelons go to the intestinal wall to transport insulin. The Companies medical devices hope to offer people with type 1 diabetes a better quality of life, using technology and in particular systems "Artificial pancreas". The artificial pancreas, also known as the "closed loop" system of insulin, is constantly "worn" on the body. A tiny plastic tube that sits under the skin records the level of glucose in the interstitial fluid, the fluid that surrounds the cells of the body. The glucose monitor displays the user's blood sugar level at the pump and changes the amount of insulin it distributes to keep the user's blood sugar at the right level. Most systems available today are known as "loop" closed loop systems and provide the basic insulin level. However, the user needs to report more information about their meals and the manual blood pressure measurements in the system to get the "bolus" doses, ie the rapid intake of fast-acting insulin taken around meals. Insulin pump equipment companies operate in closed loop systems that can automatically provide both basic and convenient doses so that human intervention is not necessary.


According to James Hayward, the lead analyst technology IDTechEx, the question of how big the difference is between the hybrid closed loop and the full closed loop has not yet been answered. A complete closed loop system, including bolus doses, would be ideal, as it is essentially a pure artificial pancreatic approach. While the full artificial pancreas may be a few years away from being marketed, the hybrid market devices it is very likely to increase.

Siddharth Shah, director program in the transformational practice of Frost & Sullivan, stated that the market for insulin pumps is increasing, however their cost, which can reach $ 7.000, is not affordable at all. This is a problem that manufacturers seem to have recognized, so they have found new ways of charging to cope with the high cost. Instead of simple agreements for a certain number of units, agreements between hardware vendors and insurers - such as the agreement between UnitedHealthcare and Medtronic - focused on health outcomes. According to both companies, patients using closed-loop systems had 27% fewer hospital admissions than those who did not.

There are signs in the wider healthcare sector that closed loop systems are better at maintaining blood sugar control than manual alternatives. In particular, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people with type 1 diabetes, with closed loop systems, were more likely to have normal blood sugar levels than those who received their insulin by injection alone. Another factor that can help boost blood sugar is a growing drive for interoperability. Companies like Tidepool offer software for the management of closed loop systems that include glucose measuring screens and insulin pumps from different manufacturers. In addition to handling glucose transport, such applications can also allow users to provide data about their lifestyle, their diet and other events, to better manage their blood sugar levels.

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