10.5% of the U.S. population had diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2020. If this number continues to grow at the same rate, by 2040, it is predicted that diabetes will affect 642 million people globally.
Research shows that $1 out of every $4 in the U.S. healthcare system is spent on the care of someone with diabetes. There is an increasing demand for better and more modernized ways of managing this epidemic.
Diabetes is one of the major causes of blindness, kidney failure, stroke, and infarction around the world but despite its global impact, there is still no cure for the disease. However, science is still striving to find ways to better manage diabetes to limit the vast increase in its prevalence and the mounting healthcare costs associated with it.
Today, developments in the healthcare industry, especially the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI), have revolutionized the future of diabetes treatment. As technology and research continue to progress, it shows clearly that the future of diabetes is now.
In this article, we take a peek at the future of diabetes research and try to understand what the future of diabetes treatment may look like in a decade or so.
Role of technology in the future of diabetes treatment
Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic disorders characterized by the body’s disability to produce sufficient insulin or respond normally to it. There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.
In Type 1 Diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas rendering it incapable of producing enough insulin. Only about 5-10% of all people with diabetes are diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. In Type 2 Diabetes, the pancreas produces enough insulin but the body develops insulin resistance which means that the cells of your body do not respond normally to the hormone.
The management of both types requires constant monitoring and maintenance of the blood glucose level, usually via regular insulin intake. This part of the management of diabetes is dependent on technology which helps in monitoring your blood glucose, your blood pressure, your weight, following a diet plan, etc.
Fortunately, innovations in digital healthcare have completely changed the outlook of the future of diabetes treatment. New technologies such as continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion treatments and real-time continuous interstitial glucose monitoring have shaped the future of diabetes treatment in our society.
Additionally, electronic tools that allow the monitoring of therapeutic approaches, smart devices to create and monitor diet plans, automated bolus calculators for optimal insulin therapy, and advanced tools for the increased education of patients have also become widespread and play vital roles in the management of the disease.
Automated Insulin Delivery (AID) systems
After decades of research, scientists have been able to connect various diabetes devices and create a system that mimics what a healthy pancreas does. Better known as an ‘artificial pancreas’, this device ultimately will play a key role in the future of diabetes treatment. The device aims to automate blood glucose control by the programmed delivery of insulin directed by a sophisticated computer algorithm and supported by a continuous glucose monitor.
This way, the patient doesn’t have to constantly prick their finger to monitor their blood glucose and then calculate how much insulin to take based on the glucometer reading. This futuristic technology is changing the future of diabetes treatment and the lives of those who depend on it. To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved two AID systems but other companies are still working on more systems that may be commercially available in the future.
The application of AI to diabetes treatment and management has been one of the key advancements that have molded the future of diabetes treatment in today’s time. Technological innovations powered by AI such as wearables, smartphones, and other gadgets play a critical role for patients today to help them constantly monitor and track their symptoms. AI-assisted care has also made it convenient for physicians and enhanced their efficiency when it comes to providing care to diabetes patients.
The FDA has also approved IDX-DR, the first autonomous AI-powered diagnostic system that is capable of the early detection of diabetic retinopathy, a condition where the retina is damaged due to high blood sugar levels.
Ultimately, such a diagnostic AI system can help diabetic patients receive timely treatment for this condition before it may cause further damage or worse, blindness.
The future of diabetes treatment: Is a cure on the horizon?
While most diabetic treatments can help patients better manage their symptoms to an extent, there is still no definitive cure for any type of diabetes. However, the biotech industry has been working extensively to develop a cure and research has shown great promise for the future of diabetes treatment.
For Type 1 Diabetes, the biggest hope for a cure stems from cell therapy, the idea of which is to replace the destroyed insulin-producing cells with new cells that could recover normal insulin production. Despite a majority of the early attempts at such a therapy failing, research continues to look for ways to transplant pancreatic cells without causing immunological reactions.
Although in its early stages of research, the Diabetes Research Institute in the US has developed a bioengineered mini-organ consisting of insulin-producing cells encapsulated by a protective barrier to prevent immunological rejection. In 2016, the institute announced that the first patient treated with this mini-organ as a part of their trial no longer need insulin therapy anymore.
For Type 2 Diabetes, several drugs are in their developmental stages. Perhaps, the most popular prospect in this regard would be glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, which induce insulin production while also suppressing the secretion of glucagon.
Another drug is being developed by the French company Poxel. The drug, which has shown great promise in its trial stages, simultaneously targets the liver, pancreas, and muscles to reduce blood glucose levels.
The bottom line
The future of diabetes treatment is indeed promising and we can expect more and more innovations coming into existence. Scientists are already speculating about the involvement of nanotechnology in the future of diabetes research.
It is expected that this technology can diagnose diabetes before symptoms may arise or measure glucose and deliver insulin directly in the patients’ bloodstream. At this point, there’s little left to the imagination. But whatever the future of diabetes may bring, one thing is for certain that it will undoubtedly have a profound impact on the lives of millions of people around the globe.
Nevertheless, as much as the future of diabetes management looks encouraging, one cannot ignore the importance of preventive care, especially if you are at an increased risk owing to obesity, high cholesterol levels, or a family history of diabetes. Our diabetes specialist at Family Medicine Austin can help you understand what lifestyle changes you need to make to manage it and avoid serious health complications.