The bionic pancreas is another project from Boston University and Massachusetts General Hospital in a joint effort to create a bionic pancreas, a type of artificial pancreas which not only includes insulin but also glucagon to raise blood sugar. The system is intended to use an algorithm that checks every 5 minutes to calculate the amount of insulin or glucagon needed. The project has recently formed into a public benefit corporation called Beta Bionics. This newer structure allows it to serve not just shareholders, but also the public good. Beta Bionics also became the first American company to raise over a $1 million from small investors under new public investing rules!
There is no known preventive measure for type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes – which accounts for 85–90% of all cases – can often be prevented or delayed by maintaining a normal body weight, engaging in physical activity, and consuming a healthy diet. Higher levels of physical activity (more than 90 minutes per day) reduce the risk of diabetes by 28%. Dietary changes known to be effective in helping to prevent diabetes include maintaining a diet rich in whole grains and fiber, and choosing good fats, such as the polyunsaturated fats found in nuts, vegetable oils, and fish. Limiting sugary beverages and eating less red meat and other sources of saturated fat can also help prevent diabetes. Tobacco smoking is also associated with an increased risk of diabetes and its complications, so smoking cessation can be an important preventive measure as well.
According to Jack D. Bragg, DO, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Missouri, most diabetes-related GI issues stem from a problem with one thing: motion. The digestive tract is a finely tuned muscular machine. It pulls and pushes, expands and contracts, relaxes and squeezes to carry food from your mouth, down the esophagus, into the stomach, and, finally, through 25 feet of nutrient- and water-extracting intestine that ends in, well, your exit.
Currently, no fully artificial pancreas system has been approved by the FDA for use in the U.S. The most advanced product on the market in the USA is currently Medtronic’s MiniMed system which can automatically suspend insulin delivery when it detects low blood sugars. The next generation of their system will anticipate low blood sugars and stop insulin delivery in advance.
This medical-grade polyester is currently used in teeth guards that kids and adults wear at night, in tiny tubes used to guide the growth of damaged nerve fibers and in surgical sutures. Researchers are also looking at PCL’s potential as an implant to deliver medications directly to the eyes and to tumors and as a scaffold for growing human tissue. PCL may be an ideal package for islet cells, the studies note, because it can be used to create thin, flexible membranes with pores that let in glucose and nutrients, let out insulin and exclude bigger immune-system molecules.
The primary complications of diabetes due to damage in small blood vessels include damage to the eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Damage to the eyes, known as diabetic retinopathy, is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina of the eye, and can result in gradual vision loss and eventual blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of having glaucoma, cataracts, and other eye problems. It is recommended that diabetics visit an eye doctor once a year. Damage to the kidneys, known as diabetic nephropathy, can lead to tissue scarring, urine protein loss, and eventually chronic kidney disease, sometimes requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation. Damage to the nerves of the body, known as diabetic neuropathy, is the most common complication of diabetes. The symptoms can include numbness, tingling, pain, and altered pain sensation, which can lead to damage to the skin. Diabetes-related foot problems (such as diabetic foot ulcers) may occur, and can be difficult to treat, occasionally requiring amputation. Additionally, proximal diabetic neuropathy causes painful muscle atrophy and weakness.
In addition to the problems with an increase in insulin resistance, the release of insulin by the pancreas may also be defective and suboptimal. In fact, there is a known steady decline in beta cell production of insulin in type 2 diabetes that contributes to worsening glucose control. (This is a major factor for many patients with type 2 diabetes who ultimately require insulin therapy.) Finally, the liver in these patients continues to produce glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis despite elevated glucose levels. The control of gluconeogenesis becomes compromised.
Scientists are trying to figure out how to transplant islet cells and then protect them from the patient’s immune system so that long-term immunosuppressive medications aren’t required. Micro encapsulation is an approach scientists are testing to find out if a special coating to the transplanted islets can help the patient avoid rejection of those islets. These coatings let in nutrients to nourish the cells but prevent your body’s immune system from attacking them.
In gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), sometimes called heartburn, stomach acid and partially undigested food move backward through the esophagus, escaping from the stomach and through the esophageal sphincter that normally prevents such backsliding. This can occur as a symptom of gastroparesis, says Hiroshi Mashimo, MD, PhD, a gastroenterologist at Harvard Medical School. “If the stomach doesn’t empty, it’s likely to reflux up,” he says. GERD may also result from diabetes-related nerve damage affecting the esophageal sphincter, Mashimo adds. One caution: Some diseases, such as a yeast infection in the esophagus, can masquerade as GERD, so don’t brush off symptoms. We can’t treat the gastroparesis or esophageal sphincter problems that contribute to GERD, but antacids and other medications can help to reduce or neutralize stomach acids (see “PPIs the Right Way,” below).
Diabetes mellitus (DM), commonly referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic disorders in which there are high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period. Symptoms of high blood sugar include frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger. If left untreated, diabetes can cause many complications. Acute complications can include diabetic ketoacidosis, hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state, or death. Serious long-term complications include cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, foot ulcers, and damage to the eyes.
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough—or any—insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.