Fighting diabetes: UD researchers move closer to chip-based control of 'smart,' implantable insulin pumps

BOSTON--An estimated 16 million people worldwide suffer wildly fluctuating blood-glucose levels, often resulting in serious medical complications or even death because their bodies don't produce the hormone insulin, which helps cells process sugar.

University of Delaware research may someday help Type I diabetes mellitus patients better control their blood-sugar levels using an implantable insulin pump, scientists said today during the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumention (AAMI) conference.*

Prof. Francis J. Doyle III and doctoral candidate Robert S. Parker say their mathematical commands for controlling sugar levels are simple enough to fit on a computer chip, making them compatible with a surgically implanted insulin pump. The UD algorithms-coupled with glucose sensors now in development by many different research teams around the world-could significantly improve implantable pumps currently being tested, according to Doyle.

"Our vision is for people with diabetes to enjoy a healthy lifestyle, unimpeded by a device hanging at their hip, and without the need for multiple needle pricks to monitor blood-sugar levels or to inject insulin," says Doyle, an associate professor in UD's Department of Chemical Engineering, who is collaborating with Prof. Nicholas A. Peppas of Purdue University.

Sponsored by Roche Diagnostics--maker of Accu-Chek blood-glucose monitoring systems--and by the National Science Foundation, the UD project was among a dozen presented during an AAMI session on efforts to mimic normal pancreas function with an implantable insulin pump. Researchers at the session, chaired by Jeffrey I. Joseph of the Artificial Pancreas Center at Thomas Jefferson University, described glucose sensors and insulin-delivery technologies emerging from academic, industrial and government laboratories.

An external insulin pump has been on the market since the early 1980s, providing patients with an option to periodic insulin

Contact: Ginger Pinholster
University of Delaware

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