A device known as “artificial pancreas”, which uses artificial intelligence, had the proven effectiveness to control glucose levels safely in a study carried out by scientists at the universities of Cambridge, England, and Bern, Switzerland.
The research was published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine earlier this month.
This was the first time the equipment was tested in patients with type 2 diabetes. The condition is more common in people over 40 years old, overweight and without healthy eating habits. Type 2 accounts for 95% of diabetes cases worldwide.
The disease manifests itself only in genetically susceptible people. Thus, having family members with the disease is a risk factor. However, according to the Brazilian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism, the number of cases has been growing due to the increase in sedentary lifestyle and worsening eating habits, which lead to overweight and obesity.
Type 2 diabetes has genetic influence, but eating habits can contribute to the occurrence of the disease (Source: Pixabay/RitaE/Reproduction)Source: Pixabay/RitaE/Reproduction
The “artificial pancreas” is a portable device that simulates the function of the human organ in controlling blood glucose levels. The device uses artificial intelligence to automatically and tailor-made insulin into the body.
The system, worn outside the body, consists of two wearable devices: a glucose sensor and an insulin pump. A smartphone app sends a signal via Bluetooth to the pump to adjust the level of insulin the patient receives. The glucose sensor measures and sends blood sugar levels back to an algorithm that allows further adjustments to be made.
One of the main functions of the pancreas is the production of hormones, such as insulin, which are able to regulate blood glucose. In type 2 diabetes, the organ produces insufficient insulin.
“Artificial pancreas” is a system that has three components: a sensor, an insulin pump and a cell phone app (Source: University of Cambrigde/Courtesy)Source: University of Cambrigde/Disclosure
Between October 2019 and November 2020, researchers followed 26 patients undergoing dialysis. Half were treated with the “artificial pancreas” and the other had the traditional insulin treatment. The team followed the evolution of the blood sugar level for a period of 20 days.
The artificial pancreas provided patients with approximately 3.5 hours more per day in the target range compared to traditional treatment. The equipment also maintained average glucose levels for longer, reducing the period in which patients went into hypoglycemia.
Adaptation provided by artificial intelligence improved performance over time. On the first day, the time the blood sugar was in the target range was 36% sugar, while the index rose to more than 60% in the twentieth.
The research focused on patients who also had kidney failure, as the condition makes sugar control difficult. About 30% of kidney disease cases are caused by excess blood glucose.
In turn, the malfunction of the kidneys makes it difficult to “clean” the blood and increases the risk of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, very low or high levels of sugar, which can cause complications from dizziness, falls, and even coma.
Managing diabetes in patients with kidney failure represents a challenge for patients and healthcare professionals, as many aspects of care are poorly understood, such as targets for blood sugar levels.
In addition, most oral diabetes medications cannot be used by people with kidney disease who need insulin injections, whose exact dosage is difficult to establish.
Patients approve of “digital pancreas” but report discomfort with the insulin pump. (Source: University of Cambridge/Disclosure)Source: University of Cambrigde/Disclosure
Survey participants approved of the technology. More than 90% reported that they spent less time controlling their diabetes with the “artificial pancreas”. However, disadvantages such as discomfort when using the insulin pump and the need to carry the smartphone were also reported.