Artificial Pancreas: Developing Devices for the Future of Diabetes Care

Researchers test and create wearables to work with the artificial pancreas



By Olivia Dimmer
Artificial Pancreas: Developing Devices for the Future of Diabetes Care


Ali Cinar, Professor and Director, Engineering Center for Diabetes Research and Education: The technologies used for managing diabetes have changed, and now the next step is the development of an artificial pancreas system. Our research is to provide the fundamental algorithms that are going to be necessary for the next generation, more advanced artificial pancreas systems.

Nicole Hobbs (Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate): My project is focused upon how we can make our artificial pancreas system perform well during exercise. In a person with diabetes you’re really going to see that, dependent on the intensity of the activity, their blood sugar is going to have a very different response, and we really want to see how we can maintain that ideal blood sugar range in all of the different activity conditions.

Zacharie Maloney (Biomedical Engineering 4th Year): I have a background in programming, and they were looking for somebody to come in and work on some of the translational programming. So I was able to kind of get my foot in the door doing programming. And then as I started working with the graduate students in the lab, I had a chance to really start affecting the course of the research. So it was a nice transition from coming in and doing something very straightforward and very functional, and then start to be able to figure out ways to analyze this problem and to solve, hopefully, a lot of our issues.

Rachel Brandt (Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate): So my part of the project is focusing on the affect sleep has on blood sugar, both overnight and in the beginning of the morning and throughout the entire day. Based off of sleep quality or time spent in deep sleep, things like that, it can affect daytime insulin resistance. So it can make it more difficult to calculate how much insulin someone would need when eating, or their blood sugar may run higher than normal, things like that.

My goal is to try and find some kind of externally measured signal from the wrist, and so that way we can kind of prevent this rise in blood sugar that kind of affects breakfast time. Right when they wake up in the morning we can start adjusting for what happened overnight. So if they did have very poor quality of sleep we can start already increasing insulin dosages for meals or increase their background insulin levels just so they don’t even notice what that effect would have been from the sleep, because it’s all being taken care of in the background.

I’ve actually been a Type 1 diabetic for 14 years, and so that’s what led me to find this project for my Ph.D. project, because I wanted something that I would feel invested in and that would, not only I could build off of my own experiences but I could help other people in similar situations. So it’s a very good feeling to do something like this, to know that I’m having an impact on myself and others that need it.