New Bionic Pancreas For Type 1 Diabetes


Published: June 25, 2014

For years doctors, researchers and scientists have been working to find a cure for diabetes and even though it’s not a cure, a bionic pancreas aimed at patients with type 1 diabetes comes close to mimicking the natural response of the pancreas. People with this type of diabetes cannot make insulin on their own and must check their blood sugar and inject insulin numerous times throughout the day.

The bionic pancreas is simply a three-part device consisting of two cellphone-sized pumps for insulin and glucagon, and an iPhone app connected to a glucose monitor. These parts are connected to the patients by three small needles which go under the skin, usually the stomach, and can be tucked away in the pocket or a fanny pack (a belt bag that goes around the waist).


The difference between this bionic pancreas and other artificial devices is that this one also can respond to correct low blood sugar because it contains a pump for glucagon, a hormone that raises blood sugar.

The glucose monitor checks the blood sugar every 5 minutes and sends the information to the iPhone app which then calculates, based on a pre-programmed algorithm, the dose of insulin or glucagon to administer. In a study published this month by the New England Journal of Medicine, the bionic device improved blood-sugar control more than standard monitors and insulin pumps did when tested for five days on 20 adults and 32 teens.

A new study is underway with 40 adults who will use the device for 11 days. Researchers hope to conduct further studies aimed at winning federal Food and Drug Administration approval next year.

“My goal is to have this device done by the time my kid, who has Type 1 diabetes, goes to college” in about three years, said Ed Damiano, a biomedical engineer at Boston University.

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