Using new therapies and interactive technologies to reduce hypoglycemic risk

Hypoglycemia is a common occurrence and one of the greatest fears among many people living with type 1 diabetes (T1D). It is defined by a low glucose level with symptoms such as trembling, sweating, confusion and dizziness. The condition can limit a person’s ability to achieve optimal health goals related to diet and physical activity, and can have a profoundly negative impact on quality of life.

Dr. Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret, a JDRF-funded endocrinologist at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal best known for his work on the artificial pancreas, is collaborating on the development of a province-wide registry of people with T1D in Quebec. The registry will enable clinical trials aimed at measuring the impact of new therapies and cost-effective technologies to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia.

Known as the BETTER Study (Behaviors, Therapies, Technologies and Hypoglycemia Risk in Type 1 Diabetes), the project will track the incidence of hypoglycemic episodes among patients and employ innovative therapies, such as the use of an online platform that provides educational resources and support tested by registered participants. The study was developed in partnership with individuals with T1D to ensure that it is relevant to their needs.

Dr. Rabasa-Lhoret, along with Dr. Anne-Sophie Brazeau (co-leader) and his team, hope to identify successful measures that can be implemented into the daily care of patients to improve overall blood control, thereby decreasing the risk and burden of hypoglycemia. One of the goals will be to expand this approach to other health care systems to leverage their findings.

Should you wish to access the registry or participate in the BETTER study, click here.

For more informative articles on health and type 1 diabetes, visit our JDRF Blog.

JDRF supports new research to create 3D-print encapsulation device

In recent years, researchers have been testing beta cell replacement as a treatment option for people living with type 1 diabetes (T1D). The therapy can often prove challenging as it involves implanting functional, insulin-producing beta cells into individuals whose beta cells have been destroyed by autoimmune attacks, and protecting them without the use of immune-suppressing drugs.

Thanks to a grant from JDRF, Rice University (TX) bioengineers, Drs. Omid Veiseh and Jordan Miller are combining cell-based therapy applications with sophisticated 3D-printed technologies to help the cells continue to flourish and produce insulin. Their work focuses on fabricating and testing 3D-printed hydrogel chambers that house transplanted cells and an underlying vascular network. The encapsulation device, designed to mimic the pancreas, is expected to encourage the long-term production of islet cells that control glucose levels without requiring immuno-suppressing drugs.

According to Dr. Veiseh, implanted biomaterials naturally lead to foreign body responses, such as inflammation. In order to enhance the survival and performance of implanted beta cells, the encapsulation device must have the capacity to encourage the growth of capillaries and provide oxygen to the cells within.

For this project, Dr. Miller will introduce new 3D-printing approaches to create molds that can be filled with a gel containing beads full of cells that are protected by a coating made from algae.

“Our 3D-printing system will enable the construction of semi-permeable cavities for seeding an alginate hydrogel with entrapped islet cells, which shield the maturing cells from the foreign body response and promote engraftment processes as vessel networks form between host and graft,” he explains.

The duo is hopeful their findings will lead to the development of islet production for wide-spread clinical application in the future.

For more informative articles on health and type 1 diabetes, visit our JDRF Blog. 

Exploring online delivery of health care for type 1 diabetes management

Living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) is challenging, and many people have difficulty committing the time and effort required to manage their blood sugar levels with their other competing life demands. While frequent meetings with a health care provider result in better glucose control, it is often hard for individuals and families to commit to the traditional health care’s rigorous schedules and long waiting lists. At times this can result in patients not getting the support they need to ensure they’re managing their diabetes correctly and responsibly.

Dr. Gillian Booth, a JDRF-funded scientist at the Centre for Urban Health Solutions within the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and a team of researchers are aiming to improve glucose control and patient experiences by using modern technologies to optimize the way health care is delivered to people with T1D.

She and her colleagues are conducting a clinical study in several adult diabetes centres using a combination of brief and frequent virtual ‘face-to-face’ visits with the person’s diabetes care team and a web-based platform to provide patients with readily available self-management education, tools and resources. The virtual visits will use videoconferencing technology that can be securely accessed free of charge from any personal device (PC, tablet, smart phone). These interventions will facilitate discussions around blood sugar patterns, diabetes self-management, coping strategies, personalized goals and action plans.

Since young adults face unique challenges in managing T1D (particularly as they transition from pediatric to adult care centres), the supports and services afforded through this study will be tailored by age group—young adults will receive additional aids to help them transition to adult clinics, as well as customized web-based content. The researchers will seek feedback from participants and health care providers throughout the study to make sure this program meets the patients’ needs and can be easily adopted in real-world settings.

If successful, this modern approach to delivering T1D care and self-management support has the potential to enhance glucose control, while at the same time improve patient experiences within the health care system.

For more informative articles on health and type 1 diabetes, visit our JDRF Blog