Boris P. Kovatchev, Ph.D., professor and founding director of the UVA Center for Diabetes Technology, received the Gerold & Kayla Grodsky Basic Research Scientist Award at JDRF’s OneConference in Washington, D.C.(UVA)

Diabetes New Hope: Smartphone Sensor to Monitor Blood-Sugar Level, to Pump in Insulin

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Diabetes goes digital with a smartphone-based system that can automatically control blood-sugar levels setting aside the usual finger pricks and insulin injections, especially for diabetes Type 1 patients.

The smartphone developed by Prof. Boris Kovatchev, director of the University of Virginia Center for Diabetes Technology, has been fitted with a tiny sensor and wearable insulin pump, that can monitor monitoring blood-sugar levels and deliver insulin as and when required. It is undergoing two final phases of international trials in 2016 before its release into the market.

“We’ve been working on this specific artificial pancreas as it’s called since 2006,” said Kovatchev, a pioneering researcher at the University of Virginia (UVA) and a leading player in the efforts to advance artificial pancreas technology.

He was recently honored with the prestigious Gerold & Kayla Grodsky Basic Research Scientist Award. Dr. Kovatchev has lent his talents to the field of mathematical modeling and computing, focusing mostly on diabetes translational research.

He designed and developed the use of in silico modeling and simulation, which has significantly reduced the time and cost of algorithm testing in animal models prior to use in humans—a tool endorsed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and now used around the world.

Later, he moved to creating a portable cell phone–based system that has allowed mobile testing of artificial pancreas systems, and he has led one of the first sites testing artificial pancreas systems in real-world conditions.

The mobile system works with a blood-glucose sensor as small as a flash drive that can be worn anywhere on the body like arm, leg or the abdomen. It reads blood-sugar level every 5 minutes and informs the app in the mobile, which in turn analyzes the data and wirelessly orders the wearable pump to release insulin into the body with a very fine needle that remains almost painless.

For those who want to keep blood-sugar level at desired level, Kovatchev’s original version of the smartphone app will be useful and its improved versions are alos available now. The new algorithm has been developed to adapt to each patient’s sugar shifts and insulin sensitivity, which has been the most contentious issue till now.

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