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ADA: The Bionic Pancreas

Type 1 diabetes patients have better control of their blood sugar levels with an artificial pancreas…. 

The "bionic" pancreas includes three devices which are all attached outside the body. Two pager-sized hormone pumps are attached with thin tubes inserted under the skin — one delivers insulin and the other delivers glucagon. The third device is an iPhone connected with a continuous glucose monitor to coordinate the delivery of the hormones. Diabetics can experience many problems including nerve damage and kidney failure due to hyperglycemia as well as loss of consciousness from hypoglycemia. The purpose of the machines is to help better control a patient’s diabetes by more closely correcting blood glucose.

In the studies done by the National Institutes of Health, 20 adults and 32 adolescents were compared using the pump and the bionic pancreas for five days. In adults, the bionic pancreas averaged a 133mg/dL, while the pump averaged a 159mg/dL. In adolescents, blood glucose averaged 138mg/dL on the bionic pancreas and 157mg/dL with the pump. As shown from the average numbers, the bionic pancreas does a better job at controlling the blood glucose level in both adult and adolescent diabetics.

Although some studies have shown that the bionic pancreas does control diabetes better than a regular pump, this study was small and lasted only 5 days. Larger studies should be conducted for a longer period of time to confirm such achievements.

Practice Pearls:
  • the bionic pancreas includes three devices, two pager-sized hormone pumps and an iPhone connected with a continuous glucose monitor to coordinate the delivery of the hormones.
  • Bionic pancreas does a better job controlling and decreasing blood glucose on both adults and adolescents.
  • Larger studies need to be conducted for a longer period of time.

Russell SJ, El-Khatib FH, Sinha M, et al.Outpatient Glycemic Control with a Bionic Pancreas in Type 1 Diabetes]. N Engl J Med. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1314474