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Five type 1 tech innovations to watch

The recent international diabetes conference ATTD introduced us to a range of exciting new technologies in the pipeline to help people with type 1 manage their diabetes.
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Mary-Liz McGrath 3 March 2023

A hand holding the tiny continuous multi metabolite monitor (CMM) developed by QuLab between their thumb and fore finger

The recent international diabetes conference ATTD introduced us to a range of exciting new technologies in the pipeline to help people with type 1 manage their diabetes. Here are five innovative gadgets at varying stages of development, which we hope will live up to the promise and excitement of their researchers and developers.


Continuous sensors that measure more than glucose

Without insulin, the body can’t break down glucose in the proper way, so does it in a different, more dangerous way that produces lactate. Lactate is a type of ketone that can build up causing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which can be fatal. Kidney damage is also linked with increased levels of lactate. So, monitoring ketones is a useful tool to help prevent DKA and other complications of type 1 diabetes.

Several scientists and companies are working on developing continuous monitors that measure ketones as well as glucose, known as continuous multi metabolite monitoring (CMM). One company called QuLab has developed a CMM with tiny micro needles – each measuring a different molecule – that only stick around 1mm into the skin from a patch.

The individual patch can measure several chemicals at once, while the tiny needles cause far less damage and inflammation to the skin than current CGMs. QuLab has four patents pending and hopes to seek approval from health regulators in 2025. They hope the technology could also be used to create a more accurate closed-loop system.


An affordable, eco-friendly insulin pen

An estimated 22% of people around the world inject their insulin using syringes. This can be complicated and inaccurate, leading to increased diabetes burnout, hypers, and hypos.

Frustrated by the lack of affordable access to insulin pens, Ole Kjerkegaard Nielsen created the GO-PEN™. It’s an insulin pen with a target cost roughly equal to injecting with syringes. The GO-PEN™ uses a fillable insulin reservoir for fast-acting insulins, and the pen itself lasts for several years. Plus, it reduces plastic waste by 80%.

The team behind the GO-PEN is currently finalising their application to the US FDA for a license. We’re excited to follow this innovative new technology as it becomes more widely available.


Insulin pump that lasts for 30 days

We met Robert Wylie, a researcher at the College of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences at University of Galway, Ireland, at this year’s ATTD conference. Robert told us about his team’s invention that could allow the insulin delivery systems in insulin pumps (called infusion set cannulas) to be used for up to 30 days before they need to be changed.

Our immune systems are very aggressive to new things that enter our bodies – including the tube that delivers insulin from pumps. This is one reason why you can only wear most insulin pumps can only be worn for up to a week (most typically just three days) before their infusion set cannulas need replacing.

But Robert – with his colleagues from the University of Galway and MIT in Boston – has developed an innovative way for insulin to pass from insulin pumps, through cannulas, and into the body. Their system means the immune reaction doesn’t have the same effect as it currently does, allowing for patch pumps or infusion set cannulas to be worn for longer. Having to change these devices less often helps reduce some of the workload of type 1 diabetes.

Robert’s research grant, which is funded by Enterprise Ireland, finishes at the end of this year. He is now establishing a start-up called Fada Medical to help progress this technology and work with insulin pump providers to integrate it into their pumps.


A closed loop system giving both insulin and glucagon

Already being used by over a hundred people in the Netherlands is a closed loop system called Inreda AP®. We met with Robin Koops, an engineer with type 1 diabetes who developed Inreda AP®, to find out more about this clever technology.

The device delivers both glucagon and insulin, which keeps glucose levels in a healthy range without you needing to input details of meals and activity. As it senses glucose levels falling, it preemptively gives small amounts of glucagon to prevent hypoglycaemia. When it detects rising glucose levels, the system delivers the appropriate insulin dosing, limiting hyperglycaemia.

A sophisticated algorithm receives information from two small glucose sensors every 10 seconds to continuously calculate and adjust the delivery of glucagon and insulin, while learning the user’s individual behaviours and needs. The system reduces the number of decisions people with type 1 need to constantly make to try and keep their blood sugar levels stable.


Light activated insulin delivery system

Professor Simon Friedman and his team at the University of Missouri in the US have developed a system which releases insulin when light is shined on it. The system, called a Photoactivated Depot (PAD) is a reservoir of insulin which is injected all at once and lies dormant under the skin until exposed to light.

The insulin in the PAD has a light detecting molecule attached to it so that it can sense light, plus an insoluble molecule preventing it from dissolving immediately. A disk that can emit light sits on top of the skin above the PAD, blocking out light. It shines different amounts of light through the skin at PAD to release different doses of insulin within it.

Simon presented his team’s research at ATTD and said that the PAD is less invasive than a pump because there are no tubes going into the body or bulky devices involved. The PAD can start reducing glucose levels in just five minutes when activated by light, similar to what happens naturally in people without type 1 diabetes. Simon also said PAD is much cheaper to make than insulin pumps, which would help improve access to the system.

Simon’s team are currently testing the system in animals and will continue to do this until they have developed the PAD to a point where they could test it in people with type 1.

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