Building a Smarter Bionic Pancreas for Type 1 Diabetes


DENVER, Colo. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Thirty-eight million Americans have diabetes – 10 percent of those with diabetes have Type 1 – it’s usually diagnosed in children and young adults, meaning these people will need to learn how to control their glucose levels and administer insulin throughout their entire lives. But new breakthroughs are helping people with type one diabetes manage it easier than ever before.

Casey Fiesler had to learn to count carbs, check her glucose levels and deal with her insulin pump multiple times a day after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes during the pandemic.

“It is something that you have to think about constantly,” she says.

Casey, like many with Type 1 diabetes, uses a bionic pancreas – a small patch that’s placed on the skin – to monitor glucose levels. It requires users to manually put in the amount of carbs they consume. A smart phone then alerts patients when levels are too high or too low.

“Right now, the devices monitor blood sugar, and they respond by delivering more or less insulin based on that one number,” explains Associate Professor of Information Science at University of Colorado Boulder, Stephen Voida, PhD.

(Read Full Interview)

But what if these pumps could become even smarter? Casey is now part of a team at University of Colorado Boulder working on an algorithm that won’t just react, but predict more accurately how blood sugars will change.

“So, instead of just looking at ‘What’s your blood sugar?’ and ‘Is it going up or down?’, we’re looking at ‘What’s your blood sugar?’, ‘What’s your location?’, ‘What’s on your calendar?’ ‘Who else is around you?’,” Voida adds.

Giving patients more freedom to live their lives without constantly thinking about their type one diabetes.

One issue that will need to be tackled is privacy. Casey Fiesler studies privacy and ethical issues surrounding digital technologies and says one concern will be what people are willing to share in exchange for a smarter device to help manage Type 1 diabetes.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Matt Goldschmidt, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:        MB #5381

BACKGROUND: Diabetes is a significant health concern in the United States, affecting millions of people and contributing to numerous complications and healthcare costs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 34.2 million people in the U.S. population, had diabetes in 2020. Of these, about 26.9 million adults were diagnosed, while an estimated 7.3 million were undiagnosed. There are several types of diabetes, but the most common are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, leading to a lack of insulin. Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for the majority of cases, occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or does not produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels.


DIAGNOSING: Diagnosing diabetes involves various tests and assessments to determine whether a person’s blood sugar levels are within a healthy range. Healthcare providers often begin by evaluating the patient’s medical history and symptoms. Common symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, and slow-healing wounds. The primary diagnostic tests for diabetes involve measuring blood sugar levels through blood testing. Sometimes, a random plasma glucose test may be performed, which measures blood sugar levels at any time of the day, regardless of when the person last ate. A blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL or higher, along with symptoms of diabetes, may indicate diabetes. In some cases, additional tests may be performed to assess diabetes-related complications or determine the type of diabetes. Screening for diabetes is recommended for individuals with risk factors such as obesity, family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, or gestational diabetes during pregnancy.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Devices called CGMs are now being used to report blood glucose levels throughout the day and alert individuals when their glucose hits a high or low limit. This gives them insight into glucose trends. The devices can report and detect people on dangerous levels as fast to every five minutes throughout the day.



Daniel Strain

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Stephen Voida, PhD, Associate Professor of Information Science

Read the entire Q&A