Saturday, September 23, 2023

A bionic pancreas could solve one of diabetes’s biggest challenges

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Shreya Christina
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The bionic pancreas, a credit card-sized device called an iLet, monitors a person’s levels around the clock and automatically delivers insulin when needed through a small cannula, a thin tube inserted into the body. It is worn constantly, usually on the abdomen. The device determines all insulin doses based on the user’s weight and the user cannot adjust the doses.

A team from Harvard Medical School submitted its findings from the study, detailed in the New England Journal of Medicine, to the FDA in hopes of eventually bringing the product to the US market. While a team from Boston University and Massachusetts General Hospital first tested the bionic pancreas in 2010, this is the most comprehensive trial conducted to date.

The Harvard team, working with other universities, provided 219 people with type 1 diabetes who had taken insulin for at least a year with a bionic pancreatic device for 13 weeks. The team compared their blood sugar levels to those of 107 diabetics who used other insulin delivery methods, including injection and insulin pumps, during the same time.

The blood sugar of the bionic pancreatic group dropped from 7.9% to 7.3%, while the blood sugar remained stable at 7.7%. The American Diabetes Association recommends a target of less than 7.0%, but that’s only met by about 20% of people with type 1 diabetes, according to one study 2019.

Other types of artificial pancreas exist, but they usually require the user to enter information before injecting insulin, including the amount of carbohydrates he ate during his last meal. Instead, the iLet takes the user’s weight and the type of meal they eat, such as breakfast, lunch or dinner, added by the user through the iLet interface, and uses an adaptive learning algorithm to automatically deliver insulin.

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