Bionic pancreas exceeds expectations for type 1 diabetes control

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Bionic pancreas delivers doses of insulin or glucagon every five minutes to help people with type 1 diabetes

Findings published June 15, 2014 in the New England Journal of Medicine highlights the success of the latest artificial pancreas device that the researchers say exceeded their expectations for keeping glucose levels within normal range for adolescents and adults with type 1 diabetes. The latest artificial pancreas was testing in adults and children in two clinical trials.

The study that was partially funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) is a step forward for reducing complications of type 1 diabetes that stem from poor blood sugar control and happen over time.

The small device incorporates insulin delivery to match the needs of patients during activities and sleep. It also delivers glucagon to boost glucose levels when they dip too low.

The device can be inserted in a pouch and carried or hidden.

The artificial pancreas consists of two pumps that are approximately the size of a cell phone - one for insulin and one for glucagon. A smart phone monitors blood sugar levels continuously that is connected to a glucose monitor.

Adults and children with type 1 diabetes studied were able to maintain blood sugar levels of 138 mg per deciliter .

Compared to an insulin pump, there were fewer episodes of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.

Artificial pancreas would reduce type 1 diabetes burden


The bionic pancreas was tested on 20 adults and 32 teens over a 5-day period in an unrestricted setting, which had not previously been done.

Ed Damiano, Ph.D., the paper's senior author, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University whose son has type 2 diabetes said in a press release:

"The performance of our system in both adults and adolescents exceeded our expectations under very challenging real-world conditions."

He added that a cure for type 1 diabetes remains "elusive", making the bionic pancreas a technology that would "...lift an enormous emotional and practical burden from the shoulders of people with type 1 diabetes, including my child and so many others."

Keeping blood sugar levels normal can help stave off complications of type 1 diabetes that can occur decades after diagnosis, including heart, kidney and eye disease.

NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D. said "By funding research on the artificial pancreas, we aim to help people with type 1 diabetes maintain healthy blood glucose levels, prevent painful and costly complications, and lead freer, healthier lives."

The 'bionic' pancreas study shows great promise for helping people with type 1 diabetes remain active and free from complications and hospitalization.

The trial was experimental only but Guillermo Arreaza-Rubín, M.D., the project officer for artificial pancreas studies said the hope is the technology will "..go beyond experimental trials and be available to benefit more people with type 1 diabetes," in the next few years.

Image credit artificial pancreas credit:
Boston University Department of Biomedical Engineering



I have to reply to a comment. Chef - you may want to do some research and read the article again. Type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with diet. Many healthy, active people have type 1. Babies can have type 1. It's different from type 2. People with type 1 did nothing to cause or contribute to getting it. My son has type 1 and a bionic pancreas would be fantastic!