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Gel Technology Utilized in New Artificial Pancreas

Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A researcher has developed an artificial pancreas that she says could revolutionize the treatment of diabetes.

The device, developed by Professor Joan Taylor from De Montfort University (DMU), Leicester, UK, could even put an end to daily injections diabetes patients have to endure to regulate their glucose levels. Glucose levels are normally controlled by the hormone insulin, released by the pancreas when required. The new artificial pancreas, invented and patented by Prof. Taylor, is made of a metal casing containing a supply of insulin kept in place by a gel barrier.

When the body's glucose levels drop, the gel barrier starts to liquefy and lets insulin out. The insulin feeds into the veins around the gut then into the vein to the liver, mimicking the normal process for a person with a healthy pancreas, the university said today. As the insulin lowers the glucose level in the body, the gel reacts by hardening again and stopping the supply.

Prof. Taylor said this means the right amount of insulin is released automatically when the body needs it, putting an end to daily injections and guesswork often involved for diabetics when trying to control blood glucose levels. The artificial pancreas, which is currently undergoing pre-clinical trials, would be implanted between the lowest rib and the hip and topped up with insulin every few weeks.

Taylor, professor of Pharmaceutics at DMU, said, "I realized that I could use a certain protein to make a gel that would react with glucose… When exposed to the body fluid around the internal organs, the gel reacts according to the amount of glucose present… High levels cause the gel to soften and release insulin into the blood stream, once the glucose levels return to normal the nature of the gel causes it to re-solidify, perfectly controlling the insulin dose."

"The device will not only remove the need to manually inject insulin, but will also ensure that perfect doses are administrated each and every time… By controlling blood glucose so effectively, we should be able to help reduce related health problems."

Prof. Taylor said it has no moving parts or batteries and would be implanted internally, making it invisible on the outside. They hope to move on to clinical trials within the next few years, she said, and if trials prove successful the device could be available in five to 10 years. She said the artificial pancreas may only turn out to be suitable for people with Type 1 diabetes, but this would only be known when they reached the clinical trial stage.

Source:, Diabetes UK

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