More Progress Made on Artificial Pancreas for Diabetes Patients

Several groups refining systems that would monitor and adjust blood sugar levels

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Another research group, at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, is recruiting people for outpatient trials on an artificial pancreas device similar to the one Damiano's team is working on. Although this device also uses a smartphone to display the device's information, however, it contains only insulin, not glucagon.

Another device, called a Hypoglycemia-Hyperglycemia Minimizer, which was developed in a partnership with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the insulin-pump maker Animas, was able to automatically predict increases and decreases in blood sugar levels. It also was able to change insulin delivery accordingly in a study that included 13 people between 24 and 57 years old with type 1 diabetes.

"The successful completion of this study using the [Hypoglycemia-Hyperglycemia Minimizer] system in a human clinical trial is a significant step forward in the development of an advanced first-generation artificial pancreas," Dr. Henry Anhalt, chief medical officer for Animas, said in a statement.

Kowalski is optimistic about the future development of an artificial pancreas.

"This gives me a lot of hope that we're really starting to roll to what could be full-blown product development," he said.

Kowalski said he believes the artificial pancreas likely will be approved in steps. "I don't think it will be one product, but an evolution," he said.

First, he said, will be a device designed to minimize the impact of severe low blood sugar. After that, it's likely that there will be a device to prevent low blood sugar from occurring in the first place.

"Each of these steps should be meaningful, make life easier and improve glucose control for people with type 1 diabetes," Kowalski said.

More information

Learn more about the artificial pancreas from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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