Soon, ‘artificial pancreas’ to supply insulin to diabetics

Yes, you have heard it right! Not far from now, an artificial pancreas will supply insulin to the diabetics.

This magic device will constantly monitor the blood glucose level and supply insulin accordingly. It will mainly be useful for patients with type 1 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreatic beta cells- the insulin producing cells of the body are destroyed due to a malfunctioning immune system.

In type 2 diabetes, the beta cells don’t produce an adequate amount of insulin. Insulin’s function is to move glucose from the bloodstream to the body cells, where it is used as a source of energy. A shortage of insulin traps glucose in blood leading to high blood glucose levels and hence diabetes.

This artificial pancreas will consist of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and an insulin pump that works according to an algorithm and tells pump when to deliver the insulin. This will be particularly helpful at night, when a person is sleeping and low sugar level leads to coma,a seizure or even death. Using this device, one can prevent the dangerous episodes of nighttime hypoglycemia.

The ‘smart pump’ has been developed by a Minneapolis-based company – Medtronic Inc., and is already being sold in Europe and is under review in USA. The study was conducted on 247 patients for a period of three months. Half of the patients were given normal insulin pumps and the rest half was given the smart pumps. After three months, 33 percent of the patients using smart pumps reported less cases of low blood sugar.

The results of the company-sponsored study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the American Diabetes Association conference at Chicago.

“As a first step, I think we should all be very excited that it works,” an independent expert, Dr. Irl Hirsch of the University of Washington in Seattle, said of the programmable pump. The next step is to test having it turn off sooner, before sugar falls so much, and to have it automatically supply insulin to prevent high blood sugar, too.

So, way to go. This device might actually turn out to be a giant leap towards diabetes treatment and bring huge relief to the patients.