Diabetes management could be transformed thanks to bionic pancreas

Interesting Engineering

Scientists have been able to test a bionic pancreas successfully on 32 teenagers and 20 adults suffering from Type 1 diabetes over a period of five days. The bionic pancreas is a device that can be worn and which continually keeps an eye on the blood sugar levels of the patient and can give the patient insulin if it detects it is needed. There are other wearable’s out on the market, however this new technology differs in that it can correct low blood sugar levels, along with high levels too - something others cannot do. The bionic pancreas could change diabetes management for the better in the future.

Twenty adults took part in the study and during the timeframe were asked to remain a hotel room over a period of five days. During this time they were able to eat and behave as they typically would, however they were asked to limit the amount of alcohol they were drinking. Teenagers took part in the research at a summer camp and during the trials it was said that the device worked better than traditional insulin monitors and pumps. The researchers then presented their findings to the American Diabetes Association in San Francisco which was also published in the New England Journal of Medicine.


[Image Source: Boston University Department of Biomedical Engineering]

 The technology is made up of three different parts. There are two pumps, which are around the same size as a typical cell phone, these give glucagon along with insulin. The iPhone is able to connect to the glucose monitor. One mum of a 13 year old who took part in the study said that she preferred him wearing the device as opposed to having to prick his finger around 10 times each day.

The bionic pancreas passed the test with flying colours and now the team behind it at the Boston University, along with Massachusetts General Hospital, are going to begin a new trial. This one will study 40 adults over a period of 11 days. In the future the scientists are hoping that they will be able to do away with the three parts and instead combine them in just one unit. This will be studied over the course of the next year. Of course testing the bionic pancreas on larger groups and over longer periods of time will take much longer. So you cannot expect it to change how diabetes is managed in the immediate future, however the results of the tests so far are very promising..

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