The field of artificial body parts and organs is rapidly progressing, as recently mentioned on PTN, there has been a successful transplant of an artificial heart, now an artificial pancreas has been trialed in patients with type 2 diabetes for the first time. This device monitors a patients blood glucose levels and automatically then administers insulin when needed, and the results so far are very promising.
Diabetes is a disease that begins when beta cells in the pancreas are unable to produce enough insulin to manage the body’s blood glucose levels. Patients with type 2 diabetes need to constantly monitor their glucose levels themselves, and then manually administer insulin as needed. Its a very stressful and debilitating condition, which is often caused by obesity, lifestyle and diet.
The artificial pancreas is designed to automate that process of glucose level control. It’s a small, wearable device that can containing a glucose sensor, an insulin pump and software algorithms running on a phone.
The sensor is placed under the user’s skin, where it monitors their blood glucose levels, and when they get too low, the pump delivers a dose of insulin. The goal is that this can all take place without the patient having to actively do anything or even be aware of it.
In 2016 the FDA approved these artificial pancreas devices, and soon after they were tested in patients with type 1 diabetes. Cambridge and the University Hospital of Bern have conducted a trial in patients with type 2 diabetes and kidney failure, who require dialysis.
Running between October 2019 and November 2020, the trial involved 26 patients, with 13 using the artificial pancreas first then switching to a standard insulin therapy, and the other half doing the opposite. Over 20 days, scientists monitored how long the patients spent in their target blood sugar range. The team found that while using the artificial pancreas, patients spent an average of 53 percent of the time in the target range, up from 38 percent while on the standard treatment. That’s about 3.5 hours more per day. Mean blood sugar levels were generally lower on the device too. Better yet, the artificial pancreas performed better over time.
36 percent on the first day to over 60 percent by day 20. Patients also reported spending less time managing their condition and feeling less worried about their blood sugar levels. Hopefully this technology will one day be able to give diabetes patients the same life and ability as those who don’t have the condition. This is a very big step in that direction.