Using an artificial pancreas to treat patients with type 1 diabetes has moved one step closer to becoming a reality following positive results from a new trial.
Researchers from the IRCM Clinic in Montreal, Canada, conducted a study comparing a dual-hormone artificial pancreas with conventional insulin pump therapy in 15 adult patients with type 1 diabetes.
They found that the pancreas-simulating device improved short-term blood glucose control by 15 per cent and significantly lowered the risk of hypoglycemia compared with insulin pump treatment.
It also resulted in an 8-fold reduction of the overall risk of hypoglycemia, and a 20-fold reduction in the risk of nocturnal hypoglycemia (night time drops in blood sugar levels).
The dual-hormone artificial pancreas tested at the IRCM consists of a small external pump that is worn on a belt and linked to a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). Based on the CGM readings, it automatically injects insulin and glucagon, if necessary, into the body to keep the patien’s diabetes under control.
The pump is guided by an advanced dosing algorithm, which constantly receives blood glucose data from the CGM and calculates the required insulin and glucagon (if needed) doses.
Using wireless technology, the pump then automatically administers the proper doses, meaning the patient doesn’t need to frequently monitor the sensor and adjust the pump’s output as with existing insulin pumps.
Dr. Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret, Director of the Obesity, Metabolism and Diabetes research clinic at the IRCM and lead author of the study, said: “Our work is exciting because the artificial pancreas has the potential to substantially improve the management of diabetes and reduce daily frustrations for patients.”
He added: “We are pursuing our clinical trials to test the system for longer periods and with different age groups. It will then probably be introduced gradually to clinical practice, using insulin alone, with early generations focusing on overnight glucose controls.”
The results of the study are published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

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