For people with Type 1 diabetes, monitoring their blood sugar level is a constant task.
“The first thing I do when I wake up is check my blood sugar,” says Terra Hillyer, who has the disease. “It is the background noise of my life.”
In Hillyer and others with the disease, the pancreas fails to produce insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. They must carefully monitor their blood sugar — sometimes dozens of times a day, depending on their diet, activity levels, and other factors — and administer insulin on their own.
Now, for patients like Hillyer, a medical device is being tested that would do the monitoring for her and provide the amount of insulin needed if her blood sugar level moves into an unacceptable range. The device is being called an artificial pancreas, made by Animas Corp., a unit of Johnson & Johnson.
The device combines two state-of-the-art technologies: a glucose monitor and an insulin pump, which can be programmed by its user to deliver a predetermined amount of insulin, reports Jon Bardin of the Los Angeles Times. Currently, patients can use devices to monitor their glucose level and then make a decision as to how much insulin they need.
In the new device, the glucose monitor’s readings are passed to the insulin pump, and a computer determines the appropriate insulin dose. The devise uses a proprietary algorithm that predicts the future course of a user’s blood sugar, allowing insulin levels to be adjusted in advance of any complications.
Results of a trial, recently presented at an annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association, showed that the device was able to keep the patients’ blood sugars within an acceptable range, with no safety risks, for 24 hours. The study is important because it represents a growing trend in the development of artificial pancreases.
Animas is one of several companies and research groups presenting promising results from artificial pancreas studies at diabetes conferences. For example, Medtronic Inc. filed an application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seeking approval of its own device that shuts off insulin administration if the patient’s blood sugar level gets too low. The device is already approved in 50 countries, and if it is approved for use in the United States, it would then forge a path for similar tools, such as the one Animas is developing, to help people manage their condition, diabetes researchers say.
Source: “Trial of Artificial Pancreas Gives Diabetes Patients a Break,” Los Angeles Times, 6/12/12
Image by David-i98, used under Fair Use: Reporting.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.