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Bionic pancreas outperforms insulin pump in studies

Wednesday June 18, 2014
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People with type 1 diabetes who used a bionic pancreas, instead of manually monitoring glucose using fingerstick tests and delivering insulin using a pump, were more likely to have blood glucose levels consistently within the normal range, according to a report in the online June 15 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers at Boston University and Massachusetts General Hospital say the process of blood glucose control could improve dramatically with the bionic pancreas, according to a National Institutes of Health news release. In two studies funded by the NIH, researchers tested a bihormonal bionic pancreas, which uses a sensor located in a thin needle inserted under the skin that automatically monitors real-time glucose levels in tissue fluid and provides insulin and its counteracting hormone, glucagon, via two automatic pumps. In one study, 20 adults wore this device combination and carried a cell phone-sized wireless monitor for five days, unrestricted in their activities.

In the other, 32 youth wore the device combination for five days at a camp for children with type 1 diabetes. Both groups also were monitored for five days while wearing their own conventional pumps that deliver insulin.

The researchers found about 37% fewer interventions for hypoglycemia and a more than twofold reduction in the time in hypoglycemia in adults using the bionic pancreas than with the manual pump. For adolescents using the bionic pancreas, results showed more than a twofold reduction in the need for interventions for hypoglycemia. Both groups had significant improvements in glucose levels with the bionic pancreas.

“The performance of our system in both adults and adolescents exceeded our expectations under very challenging real-world conditions,” said Ed Damiano, PhD, the paper’s senior author, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University. “A cure is always the end goal. As that goal remains elusive, a truly automated technology, which can consistently and relentlessly keep people healthy and safe from harm of hypoglycemia, would lift an enormous emotional and practical burden from the shoulders of people with type 1 diabetes, including my child and so many others.”

Guillermo Arreaza-Rubín, MD, the project officer for artificial pancreas studies funded by the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases said the results of these studies are promising and the NIDDK plans to support larger multicenter trials of the artificial pancreas. “Within the next few years, we hope these technologies will go beyond experimental trials and be available to benefit more people with type 1 diabetes,” he said in the release.

Read the study at http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1314474#t=article


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