Posted on Friday 27th June 2014
Bionic Pancreas. Picture credit: Boston University Department of Biomedical Engineering
A recent study has shown some advance in controlling blood sugar levels with a 'bionic pancreas' or artificial pancreas in people with type 1 diabetes.
This technology has been the subject of research for many years and links a continuous glucose sensor, placed under the skin, to an insulin infusion pump which delivers insulin continuously. The 2 devices are linked by an electronic device which makes appropriate adjustments to the insulin infusion to try to mimic the sophisticated workings of a normal pancreas.
A recent study published in a leading medical journal; The New England Journal of Medicine, has shown some some advance in this field, mainly that this technology can improve blood glucose and reduce the number of hypos in a relatively normal day to day environment. This particular bionic pancreas used a smartphone to link the 2 devices and used a pump which delivered glucagon as well as insulin. Glucagon is a hormone which is also produced by the pancreas and has the opposite effect to insulin in that it raises the blood glucose rather than lowering it and can be used to treat hypos.
This is an exciting line of research work but has not yet reached the stage where it is available for routine use.