A new medical device that operates like an artificial pancreas is set to begin clinical trials. The device is capable of monitoring blood glucose, delivering insulin responsively, and connecting with a smartphone.
Type 1 diabetes is a prevalent form of disease with tens of thousands of cases diagnosed each year. Patients with this disease are required to test their blood sugar often and administer insulin either by hand with a syringe or via a pump device. A small lapse in vigilance can lead to life-threatening complications.
This type of treatment may soon be over, however, with the development of a new artificial pancreas, according to a recent press release from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). The artificial pancreas is a closed-loop system that takes feedback from the blood glucose and regulates the insulin administration automatically. Frequent testing and injections would be eliminated with this technology.
These features are complimented by an additional smartphone app that allows the patient to input carbohydrate estimates from their meals along with timing, according to the press release. This information is incorporated into the device’s program, allowing it to appropriately compensate.
Initially the device will be tested on 12 hospital-based patients. After testing in that relatively safe setting, the device will be trialed in the home setting with 18 patients for a two week period.
Finding ways to automate the insulin delivery process would be a significant advance in diabetes treatment. Other approaches are under development as well, including an implantable molecular prosthesis that uses responsive living cells to deliver insulin.