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US Scientists Engineering the Future of Diabetes Treatment

(CRI Online)    09:11, February 14, 2016

(File photo)

Two labs in the United States looking to change the way that diabetes is treated and ultimately cured.

Keeping track of carbohydrate intake, monitoring blood-sugar levels, and injecting insulin is a never-ending cycle for diabetics trying to stay healthy.

Labs at Harvard University and MIT have realized major advances in engineering to maintain that balance, though the two labs are dealing with diabetes in different ways.

After working in the field of automated diabetic care for over two decades, Frank Doyle, dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, says his lab aims to develop an artificial pancreas.

"You've got the sensor, the way that we measure the critical variable, in this case glucose. You have the actuator that is the agent of change, that's the thing that influences your dynamic system. In this case that is a pump delivering insulin and then you have the controller, you've got the brains."

He admits that developing an algorithm to allow insulin pumps and sensors to work together is the chief roadblock for their on-going project.

But he believes a fully functional automated system for diabetes will be accomplished within five years, as an upgrade to devices biomedical companies already offer.

Meanwhile, researchers at MIT have already proven they can cure diabetes in mice.

For type-1 diabetics, the immune system kills islet cells which monitor and regulate blood sugar levels by producing insulin.

Professor Daniel Anderson, who leads the research, elaborates on the aim of their project.

"What we developed is basically a new material that acts like an invisibility cloak. So this material coats the cells but allows them to function and live but protects them from the immune system."

Professor Anderson points out that the major barrier impeding their research development is protecting these cells from an immune attack.

"So far we have shown in diabetic mice we can take these human islets from stem cells and actually cure these diabetic mice for months. We have also shown that in primates we can put these little balls of new material in the abdominal space of primates and see that they don't form scar tissue which is an important step towards thinking of using them in people."

We may still be years away from the day when achievements in mice and smaller primates are translated into human trials.

But lines of research into cures and automated care are likely to complement each other in the years to come.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Kong Defang,Bianji)

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