Getting off of the blood sugar roller coaster

February 27, 2020

For the 250,000 Canadians living with type 1 diabetes, the days of desperately trying to keep their blood sugar stable are coming to an end. A team of researchers at McGill University's Faculty of Medicine is working to optimize an artificial pancreas with the ability to minimize the glucose highs and lows that diminish quality of life and contribute to long-term health complications.

Creating smart insulin pumps

Insulin pumps have been around for more than 30 years. Using these portable devices, people living with diabetes manually select the amount of insulin released into their bloodstream. While the majority still prick their finger to test their blood glucose level in order to determine the right amount of insulin, a growing number use an automatic glucose sensor. Even using the automatic sensor, however, the average person hits their glucose target less than 50 percent of the time. As a result, they spend most of their time in a state of hyperglycemia, which produces headaches and weakness, or hypoglycemia, which causes dizziness, confusion, and difficulty speaking.

Dr. Ahmad Haidar began his PhD studies at McGill just as the automatic glucose sensor became commercially available. "It was the best coincidence of my life," he claims, "because the automatic sensor made it possible to create an artificial pancreas system." Drawing upon his background in control engineering, Dr. Haidar devised an algorithm that tells the insulin pump how much insulin to release based on the sensor reading entered by the user. He then teamed up with three clinicians in the McGill Faculty of Medicine--Drs. Laurent Legault, Michael Tsoukas, and Jean-Francois Yale--to form the McGill Artificial Pancreas Lab. Their team of 12 full-time and 45-part time researchers has become the only group in Canada to develop artificial pancreas systems.

Advances through the artificial pancreas systems can improve quality of life

A study recently published in Diabetes Care by the McGill Artificial Pancreas Lab represents a breakthrough in the understanding of what makes an artificial pancreas system effective. With funding from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the group ran an experiment to deliver a second hormone, pramlintide, in addition to insulin in hopes that the combination would be superior to insulin alone. In the end, the study found that the combination of drugs significantly improved the percentage of time that a person's blood glucose level stayed within a target range. By slowing down meal absorption, pramlintide gave the insulin more time to work.

"I was surprised at the results," Dr. Haidar admits. "I didn't expect the experiment to be this successful." The patients who received both insulin and pramlintide during Dr. Haidar's study reported a high level of satisfaction with the new treatment regime. "By improving their glucose control, we can greatly improve their quality of life," Dr. Haidar explains.

For the McGill Artificial Pancreas Lab, the next frontier is creating a fully automated artificial pancreas that eliminates the burden of having to manually enter carbohydrate numbers and activate the insulin pump at mealtimes. "There has been an enormous amount of interest in the patient community as we develop this second-generation technology," Dr. Haidar shares. As he works to improve the artificial pancreas system, Dr. Haidar thinks of his colleagues living with type 1 diabetes and the patients he encounters every day. "I'm feeling optimistic about what's ahead for them," he reflects. "We're working to make an impact that goes far beyond our lab."

McGill University

Related Diabetes Articles from Brightsurf:

New diabetes medication reduced heart event risk in those with diabetes and kidney disease
Sotagliflozin - a type of medication known as an SGLT2 inhibitor primarily prescribed for Type 2 diabetes - reduces the risk of adverse cardiovascular events for patients with diabetes and kidney disease.

Diabetes drug boosts survival in patients with type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 pneumonia
Sitagliptin, a drug to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, also improves survival in diabetic patients hospitalized with COVID-19, suggests a multicenter observational study in Italy.

Making sense of diabetes
Throughout her 38-year nursing career, Laurel Despins has progressed from a bedside nurse to a clinical nurse specialist and has worked in medical, surgical and cardiac intensive care units.

Helping teens with type 1 diabetes improve diabetes control with MyDiaText
Adolescence is a difficult period of development, made more complex for those with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).

Diabetes-in-a-dish model uncovers new insights into the cause of type 2 diabetes
Researchers have developed a novel 'disease-in-a-dish' model to study the basic molecular factors that lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, uncovering the potential existence of major signaling defects both inside and outside of the classical insulin signaling cascade, and providing new perspectives on the mechanisms behind insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and possibly opportunities for the development of novel therapeutics for the disease.

Tele-diabetes to manage new-onset diabetes during COVID-19 pandemic
Two new case studies highlight the use of tele-diabetes to manage new-onset type 1 diabetes in an adult and an infant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Genetic profile may predict type 2 diabetes risk among women with gestational diabetes
Women who go on to develop type 2 diabetes after having gestational, or pregnancy-related, diabetes are more likely to have particular genetic profiles, suggests an analysis by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.

Maternal gestational diabetes linked to diabetes in children
Children and youth of mothers who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk of diabetes themselves, according to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Two diabetes medications don't slow progression of type 2 diabetes in youth
In youth with impaired glucose tolerance or recent-onset type 2 diabetes, neither initial treatment with long-acting insulin followed by the drug metformin, nor metformin alone preserved the body's ability to make insulin, according to results published online June 25 in Diabetes Care.

People with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently despite link between diabetes, oral health
Adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, finds a new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.

Read More: Diabetes News and Diabetes Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to