Pancreas Zapping Could Help With Diabetes Management

A new medical device may be able to "zap" a patient's pancreas to stimulate insulin production. What's more, the device may be controlled by an app on a smartphone. The researchers at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School are hoping that the device will help type 2 diabetics and those with prediabetes.

Short electrical bursts delivered to the pancreas have been shown to improve insulin production, the researchers found. Now they are working to find out how, exactly, those should be delivered by a small device that can be inserted into the patient and controlled via smartphone app.

The vagus nerve may be the key.

The vagus nerve carries instructions to most of the body's autonomous functions and runs through major organs such as the lungs, heart, and more. Stimulating the vagus nerve via electroacupuncture to treat health conditions has been approved in Europe for a variety of treatments for issues such as epilepsy, depression, and pain management. It is the subject of heavy research both domestically and abroad.

The Rutgers team has published their initial findings on using a stimulation tool on the pancreas in the journal Trends in Molecular Medicine. They liken the idea to flipping a light switch in a dark room in order to see, as the impulses to the pancreas can "switch on" insulin production in a similar way.

Study on this form of stimulation began in 2014 with mice who had sepsis. There was no way to treat that life-threatening infection, which kills an average of 250,000 Americans every year. The technology proved successful in stimulating improved immune system response to the infection and could become a standard treatment for sepsis.

Now the team is turning the idea to the pancreas for diabetics. The team showed that when combined with a common diabetes medication, the stimulation of the pancreas can increase insulin production and lower glucose levels. The electroacupuncture treatment showed an increase in glucose transport through better insulin levels, helping lower blood sugar levels in rats tested with the device.

Research at Rutgers is now shifting towards a bioelectronic medicine perspective for creation of a device to deliver the stimulation without need of an office visit. This could lead to devices to be used for other organs as well.

Source: Healthline.com

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