A team of researchers from the university of Boston has reported their results to the New England Journal of Medicine. A new clinical trial has successfully tested an artificial pancreas.
This test involved using a device implanted in type I diabetes patients that recieved both insulin and Glucagon (a hormone that elevates the blood sugar levels). To their delight, the device passed their expectations for its ability to automatically regulate the blood sugar levels (preventing the 'sugar dump') while also adjusting for both adults and teens, who require a larger amount of insulin.
"There is no treatment today capable of giving the results we've seen." says Dr. Edward Damiano of University of Boston's Bio-Medical school of Engineering, and head researcher.
Protecting diabetes patients during the night
Ed has a personal stake in this. His 15 year old son, David, has type 1 diabetes, and often has blood sugar drops in the middle of the night, while sleeping, which can be deadly. This is why he and a colleague developed the 'bionic pancreas'. The device uses a sensor, an iPhone app and a special pump to deliver one of two materials: Insulin, to lower the blood sugar levels, and glucagon, which raises it. The pump, according to Damiano, works 24/7. "This is a relentless device, it doesn't take a vacation, it never goes to sleep." He adds.
Watch a video about the creation of the Bionic Pancreas
Ariana Koster has had type 1 diabetes since she was 11, and she is now getting outfitted for a bionic pancreas for the next phase of testing. "Just not having to worry about diabetes during the night is going to feel wonderful." She says.
Phase two of the test began yesterday and will take a year to complete. If all goes well, the device will be available to the public within 4 years. As for type II diabetes, the researchers believe it's definitely possible that it will help them as well, something they hope to look at during this year of testing.
The bionic pancreas is made of three parts: two punps, about cellphone size, that pump insulin and glucagon by need, and an iPhone wired to continuously monitor glucose levels. The components can be kept in a pocket or a fanny pack, and connect with three little needles that go under the skin, usually in the area of the belly.
The main advantage of the device, say the researchers, is its ability to free the patient from worrying about their disease all the time, and especially going to sleep without knowing if their blood sugar levels will drop to dangerous lows during the night.