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UVa Researchers Revolutionize Diabetes Treatment

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

October 28, 2008

UVa researchers are on the brink of revolutionary new treatment for patients with Type 1 Diabetes.

This new system, could be as life-changing as a pace-maker for a heart patient, or a pill for someone with high-blood pressure. The artificial pancreas they are working on could make life more convenient, and it could make treatment more accurate for patients with Type 1 Diabetes.

Kris Bagwell has been living with Type 1 Diabetes for the last 22 years. His insulin pump is basically a computerized syringe.

The way you stay healthy with diabetes is keeping your blood sugar in a normal range. A sensor monitors Bagwell's 24 hours a day. That sensor and his insulin pump don't communicate with each other. Bagwell has to keep an eye on his glucose levels and do the math to see how much insulin he needs to give himself. If he gets it wrong, there can be serious consequences.

"I was unconscious last year for two-and-a half hours with a low blood sugar from miscalculating and changing my daily routine," he explains.

UVa researchers are working on something that could make life a lot easier for diabetes patients.

"That is the goal to achieve that level of independence," says Boris Kovatchev, Ph.D., who is leading the project.

You can think of this new system as a doc in the box, on your side all the time. It will check your blood sugar constantly and deliver the right amount of insulin.

"Today, I have to be the computer and it's hard. A human has other things to do in their lives other than figure out how much insulin they need at any moment based on their blood sugar," says Bagwell.

"The reason I'm excited about the artificial pancreas is it would turn diabetes into background noise instead of my daily number one activity," he says.

Bagwell is going to try this new system this week.

This system is still in the study phase, and it is not on the market yet. UVa researchers researchers say they do not know when that could happen. The next step for them is clinical trials then home trials.

The project is sponsored by the National Institute of Health and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

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