Bionic Pancreas Outperforms Insulin Pumps

bionic pancreas

A newly invented bionic pancreas, which automatically controls insulin levels, recently outperformed conventional insulin pumps when tested on a group of individuals suffering from type 1 diabetes. The common method of using finger-stick tests and delivering insulin via pump when necessary led to much more inconsistent blood sugar stability to the iPhone controlled bionic pancreas. Researchers at Boston University and Massachusetts General Hospital say that the new technology could dramatically improve the process of insulin administration and blood sugar monitoring.

Currently those who suffer from type 1 diabetes must pay strict attention to the amount of insulin in their blood since their pancreas does not naturally produce insulin. Several times in the day, those afflicted from the malady must use finger-stick tests to monitor the blood sugar levels and ingest insulin with a pump or injection. The researchers tested the bi-hormonal bionic pancreas in two scenarios: with adolescents sufferers and also with adults who had type 1 diabetes. The group of 20 adults and 32 youth were first monitored during their regular daily activities with their traditional methods of blood sugar maintenance. Afterwards the test subjects were monitored wearing the cell phone sized wireless device and continued to do their daily activities.

In both age groups the bionic pancreas outperformed the insulin pumps. According to assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, Steven Russell, the artificial pancreas system reduced the average blood glucose levels to areas that dramatically decreased the risk in diabetes complications. He continued to describe that the levels achieved with the new system were levels rarely seen ever before in diabetic patients.

The researches found approximately 37 percent fewer interventions for low blood glucose, and a greater reduction of hypoglycemia in adults who were using the bionic pancreas. The reduction of hypoglycemia in the teen test subjects was even greater. Both groups had significant improvements in glucose levels with the device. The senior author of the study, Boston University’s associate professor of bio-medical engineering: Ed Damiano, said the results exceeded their highest expectations under very challenging real world conditions. Damiano stated that his goal has not been reached yet, citing that a cure would always be the primary objective.

That being said, he stated that an automated system for the monitoring and delivery of insulin that keeps people safe from hypoglycemia would lift a tremendous amount of burden from the lives and family members of those who suffer from diabetes. So how does the bionic pancreas work? The device uses a removable tiny needle that is inserted into the skin and automatically monitors glucose levels in tissue fluids. It injects insulin and glucagon via two automatic pumps. The user of the device can monitor the status of the mechanism and its history of actions via their smartphone.

Currently, the project is being funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The test subjects who wore the device stated that the bionic pancreas is much more preferable than their current methods; saying that the device allows them to live their life more freely and alleviate a lot of burdens their disease engenders. The new bionic pancreas, which automatically controls insulin levels, recently outperformed conventional insulin pumps when tested on a group of individuals suffering from type 1 diabetes. 

By Andres Loubriel


National Institute of Health

Health Harvard

The New England Journal of Medicine

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