If a just-announced research project is successful, then maybe - just maybe - diabetics will finally be free of having to perform daily finger prick blood tests and insulin injections. Based on new findings regarding the body's production of insulin, Mayo Clinic endocrinologists Yogish Kudva and Ananda Basu are in the process of developing an artificial pancreas, that would automatically deliver the hormone when needed.

One of the key revelations is the fact that activity after meals greatly affects the blood sugar levels of people with type 1 diabetes. When diabetics engage in even low-grade activity after eating, their sugar levels stay close to those of people with normally-functioning pancreases. When eating isn't followed with activity, however, the sugar levels rise.

The artificial pancreas would be a closed loop system, that would include a blood sugar monitor, an automatic insulin pump, a set of activity monitors that attach to the body, and a central processing unit. Receiving input from the activity monitors and the blood sugar monitor, a pancreas-imitating algorithm in the CPU would activate the insulin pump as necessary, to maintain normal glucose levels in the bloodstream.

"Physical activity enhances insulin action, hence lowering blood glucose concentration," said Dr. Kudva. "Real-time detection of physical activity - and modeling of its effect on glucose dynamics - is vital to design an automatic insulin delivery system."

Clinical trials on inpatient volunteers are likely to begin this November at the Mayo Clinic. Participants will follow strict diet, exercise and insulin-delivery regimens, with the resulting data being used to form the basis of the algorithm.