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Smartphones to turn into pancreas, treat Type 1 diabetes

New York, Jan 10 (IANS) US researchers have developed a system that treats Type 1 diabetes automatically and effortlessly — with the help of a smartphone — ditching constant finger pricks and manual insulin injections.

Combined with a tiny sensor and wearable insulin pump, a smartphone can stand in for a pancreas, automatically monitoring blood-sugar levels and delivering insulin as needed, Ars Technica published citing the researchers’ report.

“We have been working on this specific artificial pancreas as it is called since 2006. We show that it is not only possible, but it can run on a smartphone,” lead researcher Boris Kovatchev, director of the Centre for Diabetes Technology in the US University of Virginia, said.

The system works with a readily available pen drive-sized blood-glucose sensor that can be worn in a variety of places on the body, such as an arm, leg, or the abdomen.

The sensor reads blood-glucose levels every five minutes and wirelessly reports the results to a specially designed app on a nearby android smartphone.

The app’s algorithm analyses the data and wirelessly controls a discreet, wearable insulin pump, which can be hooked to a belt or other piece of clothing. The pump has a very fine needle that delivers insulin into the blood stream.

“If it is working, you do not know that it is there,” Francis Doyle III, dean of Harvard’s Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, who is collaborating with Kovatchev on the system, said.

Together, the “closed-loop” system should act much like a home thermostat, automatically sensing and adjusting the temperature to match preset targets.

The ultimate goal is to make managing Type 1 diabetes effortless and automatic, easing the daily lives of the 1.25 million people who suffer from the disease, Doyle said.

The system, backed by a $12.6 million grant from the US National Institutes of Health, will enter two final phases of international trials this year that will take place at various clinics in the US, France, Italy, and the Netherlands.

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