July 9, 2009 -- To live with diabetes, to live like 14-year-old Sarah Carlow of Cheshire, Conn., is to live in a series of never-ending calculations.
"I test my blood sugar on average maybe ten or more times a day," she says. "I check it before breakfast, lunch and dinner. You have to check your blood sugars while you're playing sports. I also have to count carbohydrates."
Sarah must count the carbohydrates in every food or drink she consumes, adjusting how much insulin to give herself.
But recently, for a few precious days, Sarah was able to forgo all of that, as she tested an experimental artificial pancreas which researchers believe can help diabetes patients automatically monitor their insulin levels. Sarah is one of about 75 diabetes patients across the U.S. in clinical trials for the procedure.
"It's not only monitoring the blood sugars, but giving the appropriate amount of insulin every minute to control those sugars," said Dr. Stuart Weinzimer, of Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.
There are 23.6 million children and adults in the United States, or 7.8 percent of the population, who have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
An estimated 4.3 million Americans need to monitor their blood sugars and inject themselves with insulin at least several times a day. But could new technology do all that for them?
It is the logical next step, say doctors. Diabetic patients already have continuous sensors that monitor sugar levels in the body. And they have pumps that dispense insulin. Now, researchers have figured out how to link the two.
"The sensor, just under the skin, sends a signal to the transmitter. It goes to a so-called control box, which tells the pump how much insulin to release.
Sarah says she doesn't feel a thing while this occurs. "No. Not at all. It's an amazing thing," she said.
No matter how much Sarah exercised or how much she ate -- lunch, dinner, snacks -- the artificial pancreas made all the necessary adjustments.
Preliminary results suggest the artificial pancreas can control blood sugar much better than patients can do on their own.
And while there are still several more years of testing -- researchers continue to make the technology smaller and more precise -- Sarah now dreams about one day living with her own artificial pancreas.
She's "very eager ... It would be amazing. Not having the every day, every minute, every hour hassle of worrying about my blood sugars," she said.
"If this comes into play, I can live a life like I did before, which is awesome."
Artificial Pancreas Project: Participating Medical Centers
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International
120 Wall StreetNew York, NY 10005Phone: 1-800-533-CURE (2873)Fax: (212) 785-9595E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org JDRF Artificial Pancreas Web site:www.jdrf.org/artificialpancreas
JDRF Funded Artificial Pancreas Consortium
Stanford School of Medicine
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes
Room G-313 Medical Center
300 Pasteur Drive, Stanford, CA 94305
Phone: (650) 723-5791
Fax: (650) 725-8375
Artificial Pancreas Center
Yale University School of MedicineYale PediatricsP.O. Box 208064New Haven, CT 06520(203) 785-4638http://www.med.yale.edu/pediat/endocrin/research.htmlYale University School of Medicine
Sansum Diabetes Research Institute2219 Bath StreetSanta Barbara, CA 93105Phone: (805) 682-7638Fax: (805) 682-3332Email: email@example.com http://www.sansum.org/Sansum Diabetes Research Institute
Barbara Davis Center for Childhood DiabetesBarbara Davis CenterP.O. Box 6511Aurora, CO 80045Phone: (303) 724-2323Fax: (303) 724-6779http://www.barbaradaviscenter.org/Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes
Jaeb Center for Health Research15310 Amberly Drive, Suite 350Tampa, FL 33647Phone: (813) 975-8690 Fax: (813) 975-8761E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.jaeb.org/Jaeb Center for Health Research
University of Virginia Health SystemUVa Health System1215 Lee StreetCharlottesville, VA 22908 Phone: (434) 924-0211www.healthsystem.virginia.eduUniversity of Virginia Health System
The University of CambridgeDepartment of MedicineLevel 5, Addenbrooke's Hospital (Box 157)Hills RoadCambridge CB2 2QQPhone: +44 (0) 1223 336844Fax: +44 (0) 1223 336846E-mail: email@example.com://www.med.cam.ac.uk/html/div/diabetes.html The University of Cambridge
Boston University College of Engineering44 Cummington StreetBoston, MA 02215Phone: (617)353-2805Fax: (617) 353-6766http://www.bu.edu/dbin/bme/
JDRF Continuous Glucose Sensor Trial
Stanford School of MedicineDivision of Pediatric Endocrinology and DiabetesRoom G-313 Medical Center300 Pasteur Drive, Stanford, CA 94305Phone: (650) 723-5791Fax: (650) 725-8375http://dped.stanford.edu/apc/ Artificial Pancreas Center
Yale University School of MedicineYale PediatricsP.O. Box 208064New Haven, CT 06520Phone: (203) 785-4638http://www.med.yale.edu/pediat/endocrin/research.htmlYale University School of Medicine
University of Washington Diabetes Research & Endocrinology CenterBox 358285Seattle, WA 98109Phone: 206 764-2688Fax: 206 764-2693E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org http://depts.washington.edu/diabetes/University of Washington
Kaiser Permanente Southern California 100 S. Los Robles, 2nd FloorPasadena, CA 91101Phone: N/AFax: N/AE-mail: N/Ahttps://www.kaiserpermanente.org/Kaiser Permanente Southern California
University of ColoradoBarbara Davis CenterP.O. Box 6511Aurora, CO 80045Phone: (303) 724-2323Fax: (303) 724-6779http://www.barbaradaviscenter.org/Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes
University of Iowa University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics200 Hawkins DriveIowa City, Iowa 52242Phone: (800) 777-8442http://www.int-med.uiowa.edu/Divisions/Endocrine/Default.htmlUniversity of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
Nemours Children's Clinic – JacksonvilleP.O. Box 5720Jacksonville, FL 32247Phone: (904) 390-3600 Fax: (904) 390-3699http://www.nemours.org/research/biomedical/trial/fl/diabetes-one.html Nemours Children's Clinic
Atlanta Diabetes Association100 Edgewood Ave NE # 1004Atlanta, GA 30303Phone: (404) 527-7150E-mail: email@example.com Atlanta Diabetes Association
Joslin Diabetes CenterOne Joslin PlaceBoston, MA 02215Phone: (800) JOSLIN-1 E-mail: N/Ahttp://www.joslinresearch.org/pinet/ClinicalDetail.asp?clinicalSectionID=1 Joslin Diabetes