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Taking steps toward a more normal life for those with diabetes

Without a pancreas that makes enough insulin, people with type 1 diabetes must continually check their blood sugar, track what they eat and when, and make sure they receive proper injections of the hormone insulin that is crucial to metabolism.

There are continuous glucose (sugar) monitors. And there are insulin pumps which deliver varying amounts of insulin. But these two technologies have not "talked to each other" – until now.

Some patients from Upstate‘s Joslin Diabetes Center are testing a new device that monitors blood sugar levels and transmits that information to an insulin pump. It sounds an alarm if the blood sugar level drops dangerously low while the person is asleep. If he or she awakes and respond to the device, it resumes monitoring with no change in insulin delivery. If there is no intervention, however, the device halts its programmed insulin infusions for up to two hours.

“The ultimate goal is to be able to deliver insulin in a way the pancreas would normally deliver it to keep the blood sugars normal, to prevent the very high and low blood sugars that are problematic with current treatments,” says Ruth Weinstock MD, PhD, division chief of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism. “This is the first baby step to actually achieving a full artificial pancreas.”

Hear an interview with Weinstock about this new device.

Hear an interview with Paula Trief PhD about living with someone who has diabetes.