Treating the Epidemic
August 1, 2011
School of Biotechnology, Amritapuri
You could have this disease and not even know it. Sometimes there are no symptoms. Or you may have symptoms like fatigue, excessive thirst and frequent urination, but ignore them. If the disease goes untreated for too long, it can lead to serious complications or even death.
Worldwide, 285 million people are afflicted, but it’s worse in developing countries where more than half the cases go undiagnosed.
A staggering 50.8 million affected people live in India.
Diabetes is a chronic disorder characterized by abnormal blood glucose levels due to insulin production defects.
When glucose levels rise too high, diabetes becomes dangerous. Without medical care, it can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke and in late stages can cause blindness, kidney failure and loss of limbs.
Administering insulin is one way to control it.
Responding to India’s high incidence of diabetes, Amrita has designed an automated insulin pump, which was recently awarded a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. When the prototype is commercialized, it will be first of its kind developed in India and one of about half a dozen available worldwide.
Normally insulin pumps are expensive, and cost about Rs. 2.5 lakhs, making it unaffordable for the average Indian diabetic patient. Considering this, Amrita worked to develop a less expensive, but equally effective pump.
“It’s a totally indigenous design,” said Dr. Bipin Nair, Dean of School of Biotechnology, who led the team of inventors, which also included Mr. Guruvayurappan, School of Engineering (Coimbatore) and Dr. Harish Kumar, School of Medicine (Health Sciences campus, Kochi).
“Every single part of the pump can be repaired and /or replaced conveniently at a low cost, even in rural parts of India,” Dr. Bipin elaborated. “This was actually one of the primary goals. We tried to keep the cost down and maintain the highest level of quality. We hope to bring it to the market at a price that would be significantly lower than that of imported insulin pumps.”
The development of the pump was supported by the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology funding received by the Amrita School of Biotechnology as a Centre of Relevance and Excellence under the TIFAC Mission Reach program.
“The funding agency recognized Amrita’s strengths in biotechnology, engineering and clinical sciences, and they wanted to bring the strength of all these areas together,” explained Dr. Bipin.
Seamless integration of expertise from three Amrita campuses viz. Amritapuri, Coimbatore and Kochi enabled the development of the user friendly pump based on dual microcontroller technology, with features not found in other designs, like a warning signal to alert patients when the device fails. The pump’s insulin reservoir is another unique trademark. Depending upon the frequency of usage, it can continuously deliver insulin for over 72 hours.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that by the year 2030 there will be about 75 million Indians who are diabetic, giving India the dubious distinction of becoming the diabetic capital of the world,” highlighted Dr. Bipin.
Thanks to Amrita’s insulin pump inventors India will be better equipped to treat the rising numbers of diabetic patients.