World's First 'Artificial Pancreas' Just Approved

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Diabetes affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. While diet and exercise are useful preventatives for the more common, insulin-resistant, type 2 diabetes, between 10 and 15 percent of diabetics are type 1. Type 1 diabetics are unable to produce insulin at all, as their own bodies are attacking their pancreatic cells. A new device has now been approved that could make management of this disease a good deal easier.

[Image source: Medtronic]

Type 1 diabetes was once called juvenile diabetes and it is a life sentence. An autoimmune disease commonly manifesting in childhood, its symptoms are caused by the death of cells in the pancreas that are responsible for insulin production. The condition requires the constant monitoring of blood sugar levels, which are maintained via regular injections of insulin. Without access to medication, a type 1 diabetic will not survive.

The development of a so-called 'artificial pancreas' promises to make the world of difference for sufferers. Approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for type 1 diabetics aged over 14 years, the Medtronic MiniMed 670G is able to monitor blood sugar levels and administer the required amount of insulin automatically.

The new system differs from previous systems in an important way: it integrates them into a single device.

In the past, type 1 diabetics have had access to insulin pumps, which are designed to deliver insulin as needed. To determine blood sugar levels, they would also need to use a glucose monitor. Taking readings from one to determine the required output of the other allowed diabetics to effectively balance their blood sugar levels within a safe range.

medtronic-artificial-pancreas[Image source: Medtronic]

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In what an FDA spokesperson has called a “first-of-its-kind technology”, the Medtronic MiniMed 670G combines both glucose monitor and insulin pump into a single, user-friendly device. This “hybrid closed loop” system measures the wearer's blood sugar every five minutes, just like a glucose monitor only automatic. It then autonomously delivers the precise amount of insulin required to balance glucose levels. An additional function allows the user to manually request insulin around mealtimes.

The recent FDA approval is based upon the successful outcome of a clinical trial of 123 type 1 diabetics. As with any medical technology, however, there are always some risks. The FDA advises that “risks may include hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, as well as skin irritation or redness around the device’s infusion patch.”

Medtronic is continuing testing of the device to broaden its scope, including trials to test the applicability of the technology for children aged 7-14. Chief medical officer of the Medtronic Diabetes Group, Francine Kaufman, M.D., said, “We are committed to preparing for commercial launch as quickly as possible.”

SEE ALSO: Robotic Pills to Remove Injections for Diabetes

Via: Business Insider

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