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Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Seed Grant: An Artificial Pancreas based on Electrically Controlled Insulin Release from Implanted Beta Cells

Seed Grants
Awarded in 2020

Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 10 - 2020

Ada Poon, Electrical Engineering
Justin Annes, Medicine (Endocrinology, Gerontology, & Metabolism)

Diabetes presents an extraordinary health, economic, and social burden with ~8.8% of the world’s population affected. An artificial pancreas with an autonomous regulation of blood glucose levels and a continuously replenishing insulin supply has long been a dream for patients with Type 1 diabetes. Current insulin pumps and closed-loop systems have limited drug supply and require extensive patient intervention. Transplantation of pancreatic β-like cells allows for continuous insulin supply; however, the coupling of glucose influx to insulin secretion has proven very challenging to synthesize. To revolutionize future diabetes treatment, we propose a radical solution devising an artificial pancreas, where insulin is continuously produced in situ from implanted pancreatic β-like cells, but where its release is tightly regulated by electrical signals that are derived from real-time glucose sensing and control via miniaturized wireless electronics. By spatially separating glucose sensing from the implanted cells, we also ease the challenges of immunologic isolation. As a whole, our proposed solution adopts a multi-disciplinary approach to overcome current challenges in cell therapy for diabetes leading to a viable path towards a sophisticated artificial pancreas.