Monitor Glucose levels with the Artificial Pancreas Project

Ann Bartlett Health Guide

    Most of us living with diabetes realize that blood sugar control means happier, healthier living - less chance for complications, fewer mood swings and a longer life. But years of statistics show that for some, control is out of reach, not by being careless, but more to do with the way the disease affects their body.  It is an unfair world for these people.


    Finding hope is hard when all you can do is fight with your body to save your life.  To help ward off complications, they need faster action than what they can do for themselves!  Devices such as the pump and continuous glucose monitor have been LIFE SAVING!

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    Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) has been closely tied to a research project called the Artificial Pancreas Project. This is a new system of insulin delivery coupled with a continuous glucose monitor and algorithm called a "closed loop system." The two pieces are linked together and work with an algorithm that automatically adjusts the amount of insulin based on the blood sugar reading coming from the continuous glucose monitor.  The result is tighter blood sugar control.


    This research project has had many exciting pieces.  It is one of the first projects that went from concept to human trial.  How did they do this?  First, JDRF enrolled 20 people for the study from three countries: United States, Italy and France. Preliminary testing was done using a sophisticated simulator of the human metabolic system. Then, the second part was tying the algorithm, continuous glucose monitor, and insulin pump and personalizing it to each participant based on their screening data. In the initial trial, there was a fivefold reduction in nighttime hypoglycemia. 


    JDRF has been working with insurance companies to cover the costs of pumps and CGM (continuous glucose monitors), in the hopes that when the APP becomes available, coverage for the system would be at least already in consideration.


    Dr. Aaron Kowalski is the program director of metabolic control at JDRF.  Dr. Kowalski believes that the first generation versions of the devices will become available in the next 5 years.  Dr. Kowalski stated, "As the benefits of tighter control have become better understood, the call has increased for an automated or mechanical solution for diabetes management that would restore near physiologic glycemic control without constant patient intervention... To get a fully automated system, you need a few more developments, including sensors that are redundant and have more than one signal.  These sensors need to evolve and that will probably all happen within the next 5 years."


    To date, the clinical studies have been very encouraging!  The focus of these trials has been on glycemic control through the night hours.  I fall into this category: often, I wake up with lows in the 1 am range, and neither my CDE or endo can find the solution. 


    During the trials, participants underwent 24 hour hospital admittance.  The first admitted participants used an open loop system,  meaning they used their own methods for controlling own blood sugar levels.  The second group of participants used the closed loop system.  The results showed that with an open loop system they had 23 episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and with the closed loop system or Artificial Pancreas, they had 5.  They also found that when using the closed loop system, participants were within target range of 70-180 mg/dl. 


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    This summer, Medtronic released the VEO, an insulin pump that sends a signal if you are below 70.  If a person is not responding to the signal, the pump suspends the insulin delivery for a set period of time.  The VEO represents just part of what the Artificial Pancreas will do.  Pharmaceuticals are already interested, and if I were a betting person, I'd bet this is less than 5 years away!


    For type 1 friends who suffer the issue of fluctuating blood sugars that turn our blood into low grade maple syrup, the future is almost here. Stay tuned HERE!  There is an announcement coming soon...


    For more information on the artificial Pancreas Project, read here and here.


    For anyone in the NYC area, there is a research panel to discuss diabetes research on Nov 3.  You must reserve a seat, if interested contact Heather Moffitt


Published On: October 29, 2009