Scientists Closer To Artificial Pancreas To Help T1 Diabetics
By Mike Boyle

Research into whether an "artificial pancreas" can effectively control blood glucose levels in type 1 diabetics continues to make rapid advances, leading those in the field to predict that technology could become commercially available within the next few years, according to speakers at a recent joint American Diabetes Association (ADA) - Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) symposium in Orlando, FL.

The artificial pancreas` components consist of a continuous glucose monitor, and insulin pump and a sophisticated computer program that continuously takes in data from the glucose monitor inserted into a patient`s vein and calculates the dose of artificial insulin that needs to be infused through the insulin pump.

All but the computer program are technologies already commercially available to people with diabetes. Research trials performed so far within the JDRF Artificial Pancreas Project have tested various levels of automation, multiple computer programs, and a range of in-clinic situations, including large and small meals, nighttime control, and exercise.

However, "a fully automated system that administers insulin as needed during the night without human intervention is planned to be tested on children in their homes in the United Kingdom. Nobody has done such a study before," lead researcher Roman Hovorka, Ph.D, Principal Research Associate at the University of Cambridge Metabolic Research Laboratories said in a June 27 press release.

"I think artificial pancreas systems are going to turn out to be among the most promising short-term clinical benefits of diabetes research," said Richard Insel, Executive Vice President of Research at JDRF. "They are going to obviously allow individuals to more effectively manage their blood glucose levels, especially after eating, when exercising, and during the night while they sleep. Not only will that help prevent long-term complications of the disease, but low blood sugars will be prevented, and living with diabetes will be easier. Just preventing the swings in glucose levels will help. The benefits are countless."

During the joint ADA-JDRF Orlando symposium, researchers outlined the results of their most recent study, which showed these benefits remain consistent even after adults with type 1 diabetes eat a large meal and drink a glass of white wine before bedtime. The study found that using the artificial pancreas system, these adults spent 70 percent of their time within their target blood glucose range; up from 47 percent of the time they spend within target overnight without use of the artificial pancreas system. As in the other studies, time spent in hypoglycemia tended to be reduced, even though alcohol is known to increase the risk of nocturnal/next morning hypoglycemia for people with type 1 diabetes.

Scientists have also begun preliminary research into how such a system might work for pregnant women with type 1 diabetes. Early results have examined overnight glucose control in this population to establish a baseline against which they can measure effectiveness using the closed loop artificial pancreas system.


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Originally posted June 28, 2010.