The bionic pancreas will be able to monitor blood glucose levels and administer insulin when needed taking away the hassle of daily self-monitoring.
People with type 1 diabetes know the daily struggles of constantly monitoring blood glucose levels and injecting insulin but this could be a thing of the past now that a new artificial pancreas has been created and will be ready to use in as little as a couple of years.
The artificial pancreas is designed to continuously measure blood glucose levels and automatically administer insulin when needed without the sufferer even noticing. With 1.25 million people with type 1 diabetes living in the U.S. this could be the breakthrough they’ve been looking for.
The advantage of the new artificial pancreas is that there will be no need for major surgery or harsh immunosuppressant drugs that are required for current pancreas transplants as Dr Roman Hovorka and Dr. Hood Thabit, both from Cambridge University explain in the study.
“There are alternatives to the artificial pancreas, with improvements in technology in both whole pancreas transplantation and also transplants of just the beta cells from the pancreas which produce insulin. However, recipients of these transplants require drugs to supress their immune systems just as in other organ transplants. In the case of whole pancreas transplantation, major surgery is required; and in beta cell islet transplantation, the body’s immune system can still attack the transplanted cells and kill off a large proportion of them (80% in some cases). The artificial pancreas of course avoids the need for major surgery and immunosuppressant drugs.”
The bionic pancreas will support a ‘closed loop’ system which involves a needle placed under the skin that both monitors the blood glucose and gives a dose of insulin if needed. Clinical trials have found that the closed-loop system is the most effective in maintaining and evaluating the right blood glucose levels for each individual patient also taking into account diet and physical exercise.
“In trials to date, users have been positive about how use of an artificial pancreas gives them ‘time off’ or a ‘holiday’ from their diabetes management, since the system is managing their blood sugar effectively without the need for constant monitoring by the user.”
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently looking into the approval and production of one of these systems that could be available as soon as next year in the U.S. while the UK National Institute for Health Research states the closed-loop systems will be available by the end of 2018.
Details of the study were published in the journal Diabetologia.