Type I Diabetes has long been a dreadful disease for young children, adolescents and some adults. This type of diabetes differs from Type II Diabetes, as it is an autoimmune disorder which causes the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas to be attacked by the immune system and destroyed.
Much research has gone into the cure of Type I Diabetes. Recently, researchers funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation have been conducting trials on an artificial pancreas. The news to date, is quite exciting as clinical trials are continuing.
According to reports, the artificial pancreas would measure blood sugar levels through a continuous glucose monitor. The monitor would then send readings to an insulin pump which would be activated as needed in order to maintain a steady glucose level in the blood, especially critical when the patient is sleeping.
One of the most worrisome aspects of Type I Diabetes is a sudden drop in blood glucose levels, especially dangerous during the night when young children are asleep. If the drop in glucose is not noticed, the child or adult can go into a coma or even die in their sleep.
Insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas is released following ingestion of food. The amount of insulin released is in direct proportion to the amount of food eaten. Insulin allows the sugars and nutrients contained in the food to be released into the blood stream, supplying the body with fuel for activity. The amount of sugar in the blood of a healthy person will decrease once it enters the cells. The lessening of sugar levels signals the pancreas to slow production of insulin so there is no drop in blood sugar levels, but rather, a steady level is maintained. In Type I Diabetes, however, sugar is not moved into the cells of the body, which starves the cells of energy production and raises blood sugar levels. Over time, high blood glucose levels damage organs and systems of the body, causing damage to the nerves and blood vessels of the eyes, kidneys and heart.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, founded in 1970, has contributed more than $1.4 billion to diabetes research. For more information on the Continuous Glucose Monitor and this research project, please read The JDRF Emerging Technologies E-Newsletter #9.