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Another step toward developing artificial pancreas for type 1 diabetes

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Artificial pancreas takes a step further for type 1 diabetes treatment.

Canadian researchers have taken the next step toward making type 1 diabetes treatment using artificial pancreas a reality.

Results of a trial of the device that is worn on a belt and continually monitors blood sugar levels are published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) showing artificial pancreas substantially lowered the chances of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia and improved glucose control among 15 adult patients.

The device automatically injects insulin under the skin to ensure optimal glucose control. Compared to insulin pumps there is no need to monitor the sensor and adjust the pump’s output, the study authors explain.

RCM researchers, led by endocrinologist Dr. Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret compared the device to conventional insulin pumps therapy.

Ahmad Haidar, first author of the study said a press release, "The artificial pancreas also resulted in an 8-fold reduction of the overall risk of hypoglycemia, and a 20-fold reduction of the risk of nocturnal hypoglycemia."

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Knowing blood sugars won't drop too low during sleep is of major importance for type 1 diabetics. One of the reasons patients fail to reach target blood sugar levels is fear of hypoglycemia. “In fact, nocturnal hypoglycemia is the main barrier to reaching glycemic targets”, said Rabasa-Lhoret.

The device also delivers glucagon to raise blood sugar levels if needed and closely mimics the body's own pancreas.

The pump works by way of an algorithm developed by the researchers that they eventually hope to incorporate into a smart phone. Using the algorithm could mean wireless software could be used to control the pump automatically without any intervention from the patient.

The researchers are continuing longer trials that will include patients of various ages. The scientists say the artificial pancreas will probably be introduced gradually into clinical practice, but initially be used for overnight glucose monitoring. `

Dr. Rabasa-Lhoret says artificial pancreas could eliminate daily frustrations experienced by people with type 1 diabetes in addition to improving management of the disease. The diabetes treatment was also studied in U.S. patients in findings presented June, 2012 at at the 72nd Annual American Diabetes Association Meeting. Five percent of diabetics are diagnosed with type 1, according to the American Diabetes Association.

IRCM Press release
January 28, 2013

Image credit: Wikimedia commons